Sue Schmidt, a friend who blogs at Let’s Choose Joy, is allowing me to run this Lenten reflection inspired by a poem by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Sue says that the poem reminds her of a verse from the Book of Revelation. In the first part of his vision, Sue notes, Jesus instructs the apostle John to write letters to seven of the churches scattered throughout modern day Turkey. He concludes one of these letters by saying, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”
If for Sue the Rilke poem conjures up the Book of Revelation, for me it recalls the George Herbert poem “Love (3),” where the poet imagines Christ inviting him to a banquet and serving him. I post on that poem here.
I find it particularly lovely that Sue posted on a poem about guests at a banquet because last week Julia and I were guests at Sue and her husband Dan’s house in Pennsylvania. In “the softness of the evening” over a wonderful meal, we talked of faith, art, writing, life journeys, children, and community. I can see why Sue would be drawn to a poem that opens with an image of weaving because her house is filled with her beautiful wall hangings.
By Sue Schmidt, Let’s Choose Joy
During Lent, I’ve been using my Wednesday posts to reflect on hope. When I came across this poem by Rilke. I was struck by the strong message of hope I found within its lines. There is work for us to do, no doubt about that. The very act of reconciling the pieces of our life that don’t match, that don’t make sense, is difficult.
But there is a reward that comes from graciously owning our past - the good, the bad, the perplexing. By refusing to see ourselves as victims, we turn the tables and become hosts. Rather than throwing a pity party, we anticipate a celebration with a gentle yet empowering guest. This partner in our loneliness, mysteriously responding to our monologues, has the ability to change us. And as we yield to this love we are stretched, infused, transformed until it is no longer clear who is being held and who is doing the holding - so interwoven we cannot tell where this mystical dance begins and where it ends.
She Who Reconciles
By Rainer Maria Rilke
She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth –
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.