Every year around this time, I try to stay afloat in the sea of chaos and consumerism. My method of survival has been to seek a quiet haven where I can dwell upon the meaning of the Season. I entitled my annual December post on this theme ‘Reading the Season’.
This year, watching the daring flash mob singing of Hallelujah Chorus in a shopping mall food court has jump started my quest for a spiritual respite. In a time where the legitimate word is Jollity over Jesus, where Christ has been declared politically incorrect at Christmas, and where God is denounced together with Bigfoot and the tooth fairy in ads on buses, I want to mull on some subversive counter-reflections.
This time, I’ve steered my search towards poetry and found this collection edited by Luci Shaw. It is the 1984 Regent College Publication of A Widening Light: Poems of the Incarnation. (Click on link to read excerpts from Google Books.)
Luci Shaw has partnered with Madeleine L’Engle on her literary journey, including being her publisher, co-author, fellow poet and close writer-friend. For years, I have enjoyed Luci Shaw’s poetry and her other works, and one time, had sat in her workshop learning the art and craft of journal writing.
A Widening Light is a collection of poetry by some of twentieth century prominent Christian writers and scholars, including C. S. Lewis, Eugene Peterson, Mark Noll, as well as lesser known but just as inspiring contributors. My favourite in the collection are those from Madeleine L’Engle and Luci Shaw.
As a meager attempt to stoke the flame of faith and keep the Reason in the Season, I’d like to share some excerpts from this collection here.
After the bright beam of hot annunciation
Fused heaven with dark earth
His searing sharply-focused light
Went out for a while
Eclipsed in amniotic gloom:
His cool immensity of splendor
His universal grace
Small-folded in a warm dim
The Word stern-sentenced to be nine months dumb—
Infinity walled in a womb
Until the next enormity—the Mighty,
After submission to a woman’s pains
Helpless on a barn-bare floor
First-tasting bitter earth.
Now, I in him surrender
To the crush and cry of birth.
Was closeted in time
He is my open door
From his imprisonment my freedoms grow,
Part of his body, I transcend this flesh.
From his sweet silence my mouth sings.
Out of his dark I glow.
My life, as his,
Slips through death’s mesh,
Joins hands with heaven,
Speaks with stars.
Some Christmas stars
Blazes the star behind the hill.
Snow stars glint from the wooden sill.
A spider spins her silver still
within Your darkened stable shed:
in asterisks her webs are spread
to ornament your manger bed.
Where does a spider find the skill
to sew a star? Invisible,
obedient, she works Your will
with her swift silences of thread.
I weave star-poems in my head;
the spider, wordless, spins instead.
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d been no room for the child.
The risk of birth
This is no time for a child to be born.
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a nova lighting the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born.
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour and truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by greed and pride the sky is torn—
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
‘Reading The Season’ Posts over a Decade:
2020: Jack by Marilynne Robinson
2019: ‘A Hidden Life’ – A Film for the Season
2018: A Verse from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season
2017: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
2014: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
2012: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
2011: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
2010: A Widening Light by Luci Shaw
2009: The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
2008: The Bible and the New York Times by Fleming Rutledge
2008: A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
Photos: All photos in this post except “Water drops on spider web” are taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, All Rights Reserved.
‘Water drops on spider web’ is in the public domain, please refer to Wikimedia Commons for further details. CLICK HERE to go there.
13 thoughts on “Reading the Season: Luci Shaw”
Thanks for sharing this book with us. I think I’ll search it out for the poetry lover at our house…
Blessings on your preparations for Christmas!
Glad to have offered you a gift idea. Another more comprehensive poetry collection is The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle. You might want to look for that one too.
Enjoy your family Christmas!
Lovely poetry. And thanks for sharing that flash mob link. It was fantastic!
Isn’t that amazing? I think it’s the best flash mob I’ve ever seen… or heard.
When your post first came up on Google Reader, I thought it said “Luci Show.” 🙂
I love your very appropriate new header image!
Your sunrise/sunset image is stunning. This is such a beautiful post, with a beautiful intention in you, to breathe in the meaning in this season of chaos. I was so delighted by the “Hallelujah Chorus” video when you sent it, that I have sent it to many, many friends and family members. I just keep saying “Hallelujah!” wherever I go.
I like L’Engle’s words “irrational season.”
Just lovely, Arti!
LOL… Luci Show!
Thanks and that’s a sunset. Being a nocturnal creature, I seldom have the chance to capture a sunrise. I chose this photo because you can see the different degrees of brightness… which draws some similarity with the title of the book I mention: A Widening Light.
Yes, I really like that phrase “the irrational season”. That’s the name of one of L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals, which is my last year’s “Reading the Season” selection: https://rippleeffects.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/reading-the-season-madeleine-lengle/
Good for you, Arti! Your photographs are stunning; I particularly like the spider web–as well as the poem below it “Where does a spider find the skill/to sew a star?”
As for the video, I’m crying. And already planning who should be on the receiving end of it. Hallelujah, indeed!
That clip has me all excited about the Season, which, I admit, started on a note that would echo Scrooge’s notorious exclamation. Anyway, I’m so glad it had invigorated you too.
As for the photos, thanks for allowing me to clarify… and I’ve added a note at the end of the post. All the photos were taken by me except that one “Water drops on spider web”, which I got from Wikimedia Commons. It’s in the public domain. I’ve included the link there.
Hope you’re off to a wonderful start for the Season.
This is such a meaningful and lovely post. Like you, I long for meaning and peace in the midst of chaos and commercialism. I think your idea of Reading The Season is fantatic! (I’m thinking of doing nothing but reading the Bible during Lent, what do you think about that idea?) Anyway, Madeleine L’Engle has long been one of my favorite authors; when I knew that she and Luci Shaw were close friends, I picked up some of Shaw’s books. I’m not particularly fond of poetry, but from time to time, one of those poems can bring just the right thing into one’s life. Shaw, L’Engle and Lewis? What a perfect trio!
Blessings on your Christmas. I’ll be back, of course, I just want to say it now. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and yes, I think reading itself has a calming effect. So all the more effective to counteract chaos when the subject matter is meditative and transcendent. I have posted a ‘Reading the Season’ for three years now. Have included the links to my previous ones at the end of the post here. You’re welcome to browse and hope they resonate for you too.
All the best for a most wonderful Advent and Christmas Season!
BTW, I’m also reading Kawabata’s Snow Country now, how eclectic is that! 😉 Hopefully I could write a review of it before the year end to finish off my Japanese Literature Challenge.
Bless Madeleine L’Engle for many things, but especially for helping to bring us together! I added her to my favorite authors on my About page strictly on the basis of “The Irrational Season” – and have known and loved for years the two poems you cite.
Luci Shaw is new to me, and I especially liked “Some Christmas Stars”. The spider, true to her nature… We’re not really called to be any more than that.
I’m a fan of ML’s “adult books”, specifically, The Crosswicks Journals and her poetry. There’s so much wisdom disguised in simplicity. LS has been closely linked with ML as her publisher, co-author and good friend. You might like to explore her website by clicking on the link I’ve here. I’m sure they influenced each other too… it’s a loss that ML passed away three years ago. And yes, I feel affiliation to all who love ML’s works. 😉
These are beautiful, thank you. I’ve been trying to do the same thing, although my reading has been more towards legends and fairy tales, although it has included some Augustine and Aquinas. I think seasonal reading is exactly the way to reinject spirituality into the next week.
I’m sure you’ll have a rewarding experience dwelling on Augustine and Aquinas. Hope your Christmas is a blessed time for you and yours! Thanks for stopping by amidst all the frenzies.