Today is the Feast Day of The Presentation of the Lord, which commemorates the day Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple 40 days after his birth to be presented to the Lord. They were fulfilling the lawful Jewish ritual of their time.
Today is also The World Day for Consecrated Life, an annual day of prayer for consecrated men and women who have committed themselves to God’s service through vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Although this day is annual, this year it is embedded in the Year of Consecrated Life, which began November 30th of last year. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington D.C. wrote about this day and this year in a blog essay, “The Great Gift of Consecrated Life.” I encourage you to read it.
In honor of this special day I want to highlight a gift from Jessica Powers, who was a discalced Carmelite nun. I became acquainted with her poetry about twenty years ago when I read her life story, Winter Music, written by Dolores Leckey. Interspersed throughout the pages of that book were many examples of her beautiful, profound poetry. It spoke to me at the deepest level of my spirit.
Here is an example of one of Jessica Power’s poems. It can be found on page 21 of Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, edited by Regina Siegfried and Robert Morneau.
Garments of God
God sits on a chair of darkness in my soul.
He is God alone, supreme in His majesty.
I sit at His feet, a child in the dark beside Him;
my joy is aware of His glance and my sorrow is tempted
to nest on the thought that His face is turned from me.
He is clothed in the robes of His mercy, voluminous garments—
not velvet or silk and affable to the touch,
but fabric strong for a frantic hand to clutch,
and I hold to it fast with the fingers of my will.
Here is my cry of faith, my deep avowal
to the Divinity that I am dust.
Here is the loud profession of my trust.
I need not go abroad
to the hills of speech or the hinterlands of music
for a crier to walk in my soul where all is still.
I have this potent prayer through good or ill”
here in the dark I clutch the garments of God.
I can relate to “…my joy is aware of His glance and my sorrow is tempted/ to nest on the thought that His face is turned from me.” There are times of consolation and of desolation in the spiritual journey. Often I have to remind myself that the thought that God’s face is turned away from me is a temptation. God’s face, poetically speaking, is never turned from anyone. That thought gives me joy and peaceful serenity.
I believe in God’s mercy, expressed so well with the imaginative words, “He is clothed in the robes of His mercy, voluminous garments—/not velvet or silk and affable to the touch,/ but fabric strong for a frantic hand to clutch,/ and I hold to it fast with the fingers of my will.” Yes, there are frantic times in life’s journey to union with God, and one has to reach out for and to cling to God’s infinite mercy.
If you like this poem, there are many more in the book of her selected poetry. You might also enjoy Leckey’s biography.