In the Christian calendar this is the Advent season, with the first of the four candles lighted for hope. Chanukah candles are now placed in the menorah , one each night for eight nights, representing the miracle of a day’s worth of oil lasting eight days; stamina!
The season is filled with rich symbolism. Take another look and you’re sure to see new things. Mary Oliver’s latest book of poems, Thirst, is filled with symbols that fit the season. I skipped over one of the poems in this new collection because of the word Lord in the title; oh silly me! I shouldn’t let the old language get in the way of new insights. So I took another look, getting past the L word, and invite you to look with me:
Making the House Ready for the Lord
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
Still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice—it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances—but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
‘Speaking’ to the animals is ‘welcoming the Lord.’ For some, the word Lord is Jesus. God.
I prefer to spell God with a capital N. Nature. Mary Oliver spells Lord with a capital N. It would be a stretch, for most of us, to welcome the ‘uproar of mice’ as guests to live under the sink. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine welcoming the raccoon into the kitchen, though, when the Meeting House was a parsonage, and we lived there, we had two raccoons come into the kitchen one night; we nervously evicted them.
The old story says that there was ‘no room in the inn.’ Mother Mary gave birth to her baby in the barn, with the animals. Nature. We are part of Nature ‘aware of itself.’ We light the Advent candle of hope – who can live without it? We light the Chanukah candles to be reminded that we’re living in the midst of the miracle; it’s in us, and all around us. I hope you’re able to break through your resistance and ‘make your house ready for the Lord,’ in whatever ways you can. The spiritual life isn’t about dogmatic belief systems, it’s about qualities of the human spirit — compassion, forgiveness, inner peace and love. Make your house ready for these things of the spirit. Say come in, hope, come in, you are welcome!