Reading the Season: A Verse from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season

‘Reading the Season’ is my Christmas post every year. It’s always a pleasure to spend some quiet time amidst the hustle and bustle of the festivities to meditate on the essence and meaning of the Season. Yes, something like the perennial “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent weeks, one of my previous ‘Reading the Season’ posts has seen particularly high traffic, and that’s where I selected a few of Madeleine L’Engle’s poems. Indeed, the brilliant L’Engle had given us more than just A Wrinkle in Time. The versatile writer had 63 publications to her credits.

My favourite of her works is The Crosswicks Journal series. In there is the alchemy of wisdom, experience, and faith. Rereading Book 3 The Irrational Season this time, I came upon this verse which I didn’t notice much before. But this year’s different, for there’s a newborn in the family.

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Here’s L’Engle’s short intro before the poem:

“When I wrote the following lines I thought of them as being in Mary’s voice, but they might just as well be in mine––or any parent’s.” (p. 115, The Irrational Season)

Now we may love the child.
Now he is ours,
this tiny thing,
utterly vulnerable and dependent
on the circle of our love.
Now we may hold him,
feeling with gentle hands
the perfection of his tender skin
from the soft crown of his head
to the sweet soles of his merrily kicking feet.
His fingers softly curl
around one finger of the grownup hand.
Now we may hold.
Now may I feel his hungry sucking at my breast
as I give him my own life.
Now may my husband toss him in the air
and catch him in his sure and steady hands
laughing with laughter as quick and pure
as the baby’s own.
Now may I rock him softly to his sleep,
rock and sing,
sing and hold.
This moment of time is here,
has happened, is:
rejoice!

Child,
give me the courage for the time
when I must open my arms
and let you go.

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And oh what letting go it was for Mary that day at the foot of a cross, that ultimate letting go, and with it, the awakening which must have brought her back to that first night when she gave birth in the manger.

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Above Photo Credit: Diana Cheng. An evening view from Ontario’s Point Pelee National Park, September, 2018.

 

Past Reading the Season Posts:

2017: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

2016:  Silence by Shusaku Endo

2015: The Book of Ruth

2014: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

2013: Poetry by Madeleine L’Engle

2012: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

2011: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle

2010: A Widening Light, 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

 

 

 

The Ultimate Arrival

Spoiler Alert: This post contains a major spoiler of a current movie with a similar name.

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If you’d known the future, would you change anything?

In the movie Arrival, what’s most moving for me is at the end, when we realize, ah-ha! Dr. Louise Banks has seen it beforehand—knowing full well that years later, her husband Ian will leave her, and her dear daughter Hannah will die of illness at a young age—she still chooses to embark on this journey of love and motherhood, a small idea to illustrate a bit of the Ultimate Arrival.

In the words of the story writer Ted Chiang:

“From the beginning I knew my destination, and I chose my route accordingly.”

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And here’s another life…

If you’d known that you’d be born in a smelly horse stable, had to flee from a death threat on your life while still an infant, and later, you’d be misunderstood, criticized, rejected, plotted against, deserted and denied by your intimate friends, betrayed, beaten, spat upon, taunted, and finally hung on the cross with just three nails holding you up until death of asphyxiation, and that’s after living a short life of only 33 years, would you rather not be born?

Yet, He chose to arrive.

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The Risk of Birth, Christmas, 1973

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & 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 a comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

— Madeleine L’Engle

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Other Related Posts:

Arrival: From Short Story to Film (a spoiler-free review)

Poetry by Madeleine L’Engle

Reading the Season: Arti’s Annual Christmas Reads 

Stream of Easter Consciousness

stained-glass-2a2So students are sent back to school this week, just in time for Easter.  Nobody wants to have a holiday right on Easter week, especially the public school board.  That’s how you survive,  by being politically correct.  And the last two weeks’ holiday is called Spring Break of course.   Easter has almost become a banned word, like Christmas.  Who wants to be rude and offend others, we’re Canadians after all.

I know,  it’s not totally a taboo yet.  It’s a much tamer word, Easter, than Christmas, just because it doesn’t have the six-lettered word in it.  You can curse with that name, but no, God forbid you should say it in a proper context.   I can see you sneer, what’s a proper context, you ask.  You’re right of course, no word or context is more proper than others, we’re egalitarians after all.  As for Easter, as long as it’s synonymous with eggs and bunnies, pastels and flowers then it’ll never die.  Who needs resurrections?

All Fridays are good.  They even have a whole restaurant chain commemorating the day.  What’s it called… yes,  T.G.I. Friday’s.  Who says we’re not religious, we thank God for happy hours.  We’re much more open-minded now,  more civilized, equal and fair, don’t want to pick one day to be better than the others.  But definitely we won’t forget Ramadan, or the Chinese New Year.

There’s probably no God,  so stop worrying and enjoy your life, the sign on the bus says.  So we’re safe?   Whew!  No God means we can now be happy, worry free, all life, no death, …  Umm just let me figure this one out.  Give me a minute, I’m just not as smart as them.

Jesus wept.  He wept at the graveside of Lazarus, brother of his dear friends Martha and Mary.  He wept at the fragility of life.  He wept at the searing pain of separation.  He wept at the hopeless and uncomprehending expression on Mary’s face, even after he said to her I am the resurrection and the life.

Fleming Rutledge said more than ten years ago:  “I am deeply convicted, more so each year, of the profound sinfulness of the human race.  Yet because of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ — because of that and nothing else, because of that and nothing less — I am also convicted of the truth of what the Bible tells us about God’s plan of salvation.  The rainbow bridge does not lead to Valhalla, where the gods quarrel so much that they destroy themselves.  The rainbow bridge leads to the Cross and to the empty tomb on Easter Day.”

Utterly politically incorrect!  Who uses the word sin anymore?  Who’s Fleming Rutledge, anyway.  Never heard of him.  No?  It’s a she?  No wonder.

Now these words echo loud and clear too, written by T. S. Eliot in… what, 1934?  Aren’t they a bit archaic now?  Or, maybe they’re really prophetic:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

We should go on living, be happy and worry-free, the sign on the bus says.

So we go on living…

and Jesus still weeps.

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Original photos and text copyright by Ripple Effects, https://rippleeffects.wordpress.com, April 2009.  All Rights Reserved.

The Easter Message

 

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When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God,
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down,
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

—– Isaac Watts, 1707

 

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Photo: Dominus Flevit Church, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.  Taken by Arti of Ripple Effects, www.rippleeffects.wordpress.com, November 2007.  All Rights Reserved.