In the dark, in the light

 

‘while it is still dark’ Jan Richardson

The hours slowly past. The silence was deafening. After her Lord’s death, Mary and all those around her felt that creation had paused in inexplicable grief.

They were barely able to carry Jesus from the cross to a tomb before the Day of Preparation began. Mary was unable to perform the ritual bathing and anointing for burial and so she waited. In the silence.

At the start of the new day, before the sun began to rise, Mary ran to the tomb. It was still dark but her heart was heavy and her love great.

No one could have prepared her for the moments to come. Moments where the blur of vision before dawn caused fear, confusion and awe. Where had he gone? What was she to do?

She was brave and filled with conviction. Whatever had happened she would work to get answers. She would proclaim the truth before her. In his absence and his return, Mary remained open to God’s love however far away.

In the moments of dark-before-dawn Mary’s faith would be sealed.

While it is still dark

You hardly imagined
standing here,
everything you ever loved
suddenly returned to you,
looking you in the eye
and calling your name.
And now
you do not know
how to abide this hole
in the center
of your chest,
where a door
slams shut
and swings open
at the same time,
turning on the hinge
of your aching
and hopeful heart.
I tell you,
this is not a banishment
from the garden.
This is an invitation,
a choice,
a threshold,
a gate.
This is your life
calling to you
from a place
you could never
have dreamed,
but now that you
have glimpsed its edge,
you cannot imagine
choosing any other way.
So let the tears come
as anointing,
as consecration,
and then
let them go.
Let this blessing
gather itself around you.
Let it give you
what you will need
for this journey.
You will not remember
the words—
they do not matter.
All you need to remember
is how it sounded
when you stood
in the place of death
and heard the living
call your name.
Jan Richardson

Blessing the Dust

Blessing the Dust
For Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.


—Jan Richardson
“Blessing the Dust” appears in Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons.

Where light begins

WHERE THE LIGHT BEGINS

A Blessing for Christmas Day

Perhaps it does not begin.

Perhaps it is always.
Perhaps it takes
a lifetime
to open our eyes,
to learn to see
what has forever
shimmered in front of us—

the luminous line
of the map
in the dark
the vigil flame
in the house
of the heart
the love
so searing
we cannot keep
from singing,
from crying out
in testimony
and praise.

Perhaps this day
will be the mountain
over which
the dawn breaks.
Perhaps we
will turn our face
toward it,
toward what has been
always.

Perhaps
our eyes
will finally open
in ancient recognition,
willingly dazzled,
illuminated at last.
Perhaps this day
the light begins
in us.


Quote: Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Image: “Where the Light Begins” © Jan Richardson

Courage

On a day when the word “courage” is being spoken all over the country… I thank Jan Richardson for these words.

 

BLESSING OF COURAGE

I cannot say

where it lives,

only that it comes

to the heart

that is open,

to the heart

that asks,

to the heart

that does not turn away.

It can take practice,

days of tugging at

what keeps us bound,

seasons of pushing against

what keeps our dreaming

small.

When it arrives,

it might surprise you

by how quiet it is,

how it moves

with such grace

for possessing

such power.

But you will know it

by the strength

that rises from within you

to meet it,

by the release

of the knot

in the center of

your chest

that suddenly lets go.

You will recognize it

by how still

your fear becomes

as it loosens its grip,

perhaps never quite

leaving you,

but calmly turning

into joy

as you enter the life

that is finally

your own.

 

—Jan Richardson from The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

Image: “Gift of Courage” © Jan