Tag Archives: wisdom

Wisdom Enough?

St. Ephrem the Syrian…..16th century Russian Ms.

A gem from St. Ephrem the Syrian, whose feast is today, June 9th.

Do we have enough wisdom to make our way in life? St.  Ephrem says we have more than enough. Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God, has come.

The trouble is that often we want more wisdom than we need or can take in. We want to know it all.  Drawing on God’s wisdom, St. Ephrem says, is like drinking from a great spring of water. You can only drink one mouthful at a time. The spring is never exhausted, but you can’t drink it all. That’s not the way we’re built.

But we want to know it all, and so we become dissatisfied with the wisdom we have at the moment, or we think there is nothing more to draw on.

This is not just a problem for us as individuals; we see it in our world today with all of its needs and challenges. One temptation is to throw in the towel and say we can do nothing; another is to think we can solve our problems with one sweeping action.

Keep drinking from the spring,
“What you could not take at one time because of your weakness, you will be able to take in at another if only you persevere. So do not foolishly try to drain in one draught what cannot be consumed all at once, and do not cease out of faintheartedness from what you will be able to absorb as time goes on.”

Wisdom

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Everyday this week, the 32nd week of the year, we’re reading at Mass from the Book of Wisdom. The wisdom literature in the bible–Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Sirach– is not primarily spiritual wisdom or the high-level learning of graduate school. It’s the wisdom there in the school of everyday.

Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins from Matthew’s gospel offers an example.  Why didn’t the foolish virgins bring enough oil to the wedding like the wise virgins did? They didn’t learn from their own experience. It’s as simple as that. (Matthew 24, 1-13)

The wisdom tradition insists we need to learn from our own experience of life and the experience of others.  Yes, God’s help is there, but God expects us to help ourselves, and we have to do that everyday.

“The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom;

whatever else you get, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4,7)

Keep learning, from childhood to old age; it’s imperative. The search for wisdom goes on daily, whether the day is easy or dark, whether there’s joy or suffering. (Book of Job)

The wisdom literature recognizes obstacles in the search for wisdom. We get fixated on things like success, careers, money, pleasure, health, politics, but the school of life is bigger than any of these.

The wisdom literature recognizes too that we’re drawn to a greater reality. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We’re made to wonder before what is greater than we are. We’re not satisfied with small things. “Our hearts are restless, till they rest in you.”

“Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,

and she is readily perceived by those who love her,

and found by those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her;

one who watches for her at dawn will not be disappointed,

for she will be found sitting at the gate.” (Wisdom 6, 12-14)

The Yet Empty Stable

by Howard Hain

There’s a little stable not too far from here.

It sits in a church that has seen better days.

The parish is poor and the people seem to disappear.

But a few persistent peasants won’t stay away.

I love it there.

The priest is wonderfully uncertain.

He is afraid of God.

He instinctively bows his head at the mention of the name.

He knows how little he is in front of the great star.

I imagine he was involved in setting the stable.

It is a good size, on the relative little-stable scale.

It is surrounded by ever-green branches.

Probably snipped from the few Douglas Firs placed around the altar and yet to be trimmed.

The stable itself is composed of wood.

A little wooden railing crosses half the front.

A single string of clear lights threads through the branches laid upon the miniature roof.

They are yet to be lit.

I love it there.

I kneel before the empty scene.

For as of yet, not a creature or prop is present.

Not an ox or a goat, not a piece of hay or plank of fencing.

Not even a feeding trough that is to be turned into a crib.

No visible sign of Joseph and Mary, nor a distant “hee-haw” of a very tired donkey.

I wonder if I could get involved.

Perhaps I could slip into the scene.

There’s a darkened corner on the lower left.

In the back, against the wall.

I could hide myself within the stable.

Before anyone else arrives.

I don’t think they would mind.

I’d only be there to adore.

To pay homage to the new born king.

I might even help keep the animals in line.

Yes, a stagehand, that’s what I can be!

I know there’s no curtain to pull.

That’s to be torn in a much later scene.

But to watch the Incarnation unfold from within!

That’s what I dream.

To see each player take his and her place.

To see the great light locate the babe.

To watch the kings and shepherds stumble onto the scene.

Hark! To hear the herald angels sing!

O the joy of being a simple farmhand.

Of being in the right place at always the right time.

Of course though I wouldn’t be alone.

In that darkened corner, also awaiting the entire affair, there are many others.

Most I don’t know by name.

Too many in fact to even count.

But a few I know for sure.

For certain, present are those few persistent peasants who won’t stay away.

And of course there’s that wonderful anonymous parish priest.

The one who helped set into place this yet empty but very expectant stable.

The one whose fear of God is so clearly the beginning of wisdom.


(Dec/16/2016)

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Little Drummer Boys and Girls

by Howard Hain

Yesterday I witnessed a “dress” rehearsal for a live nativity. The cast was made up of first and second graders, and the audience was mostly composed of residents of a retirement home for religious sisters, Franciscans. It was spectacular.

Last week I was at Radio City Music Hall to watch the Rockettes in their “Christmas Spectacular”. It was quite a production.

Sitting in the dark this morning I cannot help but contrast the two.

I also cannot help but relate to the seven-year old who played the part of The Little Drummer Boy.

As that child walked so slowly toward the foot of the altar, where the rehearsal was being staged, I saw my vocation in an entirely different light.

The children were all singing their hearts out, and many of the eighty and ninety year-old sisters were mouthing the words. The boy with the drum didn’t utter a sound. He just kept walking, slowly, extremely slowly toward the altar, every once in a while ever so slightly pretending to tap two tiny sticks upon a toy drum. He was beautifully awkward.

There was no greater spectacle on earth at that very moment. Shall I dare to say, no greater event that heaven or earth has ever known?

For a child was born. We were all being born.

———

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.*



Little Drummer Boy was composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone in 1958.


Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

 

I’m Pro-Art

by Howard Hain

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Paul Cézanne, “Bathers”, 1874-75, (The Met)

I’m Pro Art

In other words:

I’m Pro Truth

In other words:

I’m Pro Beauty

In other words:

I’m Pro Love

In other words:

I’m Pro Creation

In other words:

I’m Pro Life

(Oops, how’d that happen…funny how logic can lead you to such “un-expecting” places.)

(Words do seem to matter—or at least carry some weight—maybe even 7 pounds 8 ounces worth.)

(Before you panic, give it a little, teeny-weeny, infant-sized bit of thought…)

Conclusion:

ProArt (pro-creates) ProLife

ProLife (pre-conceives) ProArt

ProArt (equ=als) ProLife


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Paul Cézanne, “Bathers”, 1874–75

Walled Garden

by Howard Hain

francis-and-clare-from-the-movie-brother-sun-sister-moon-franco-zeffirelli

Saint Francis and Saint Clare from the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, (Franco Zeffirelli) (1972)


A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride,
a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed!

—Song of Songs 4:12


 

From memory it is not easy to recall. I do have a clear image, but if it is accurate that remains to be seen. Here we go.

It was downhill. A sloping path. As I approached the stone church, a few people wandered around out front. There was somewhat of a courtyard, well not a courtyard, more like a little wall hugging into existence a welcoming space. This wall was about bench height, made also of stone, and extended outward from the building. It created what I would normally call an out-front patio space, but in Italian terms, perhaps it would be called a terrazza, or maybe even be considered a piazza, or perhaps most accurately, a piazzetta. Then again, maybe it is just a patio to Italians too.

Well, sitting on this low wall was a friar. And running around the open area was a small brown dog with a shaggy little beige beard.

I entered the church. It was small, almost cave like. A curved ceiling. Dark. Old. There was the cross, a crucifix. Not the actual one that spoke to Saint Francis—no, that one was moved up into the Basilica of Saint Clare located in the central part of the still small but no-longer medieval town of Assisi.

The reproduction spoke to me.

I’m an early companion of Francis.


 

I remained in the chapel for a while. I’m not sure if I was praying or not. I’m pretty sure I got on my knees. But from that day’s perspective, prayer was not known to me. So from that perspective, I wasn’t praying. But from today’s perspective, I most certainly was. For I was there. I was in Italy, in Assisi, in the Church of San Damiano. I was there intentionally. I was lost but I was found. I was looking, and I was obeying. Obeying what I didn’t know. I had no idea why, but I wanted to be there. And I felt something. It was heavy, literally. I remember feeling bent over. I remember thinking about all the prayer that must have taken place in that small space over the past thousand years. I remember thinking that all that collective belief must have an effect. It did. It does. It will. I was certain that I felt it. It bowed me down. It bent me over. And I remember liking it.

Faith is common.

I was a pilgrim and didn’t know it.


 

I don’t remember much about the convent itself. I do remember walking from room to room, the communal rooms where Saint Clare and her companions, her biological mother and two sisters among them, ate and prayed and cared for their sick. I remember the small warm inner garden, with it’s old well. And the spot marked as the place where Clare liked best to sit. I’ve always loved internal courtyards. The thought of being outdoors and yet enclosed. Architecturally, it best represents the beauty of true solitude. Open. Yet safe. Free. Yet sheltered. Alone. Yet surrounded by those who believe the same.

In that sense, solitude—when it’s truly interior, truly spiritual—is like love: you can never get enough of it, and once you have it, once you truly live within it, you’re never again alone.

Solitude is love. And love is never solitary.


 

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

—Isaiah 7:14


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.

Where I Want To Be

by Howard Hain

 

Martin Schongauer Bust of a Man in a Hat Gazing Upward ca 1480-90 The Met

Martin Schongauer, “Bust of a Man in a Hat Gazing Upward”, ca. 1480-90 (The Met)

 

J.M.J.

 

There’s only one place I want to be.

On the Cross with my good Christ.

Strange. Odd. Uncomfortable to admit.

The Cross is where I want to be.

The Cross is where I feel free.

 

The thought of being lifted up high.

The chance to be in pain.

With Him Whom I still don’t know.

To want it to never stop.

To not understand a single thing.

To be burned alive.

I can only call it love.

 

Yes. So be it. It’s Your command.

 

The Cross is where I want to be.

The Cross is where I am free.

The Cross is where I encounter love.

 

Yes, Lord Jesus.

Let me hang with You.

If only for a while.

My sins and those of all the world.

Added to the funeral pile.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber, or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Martin Schongauer, “Bust of a Man in a Hat Gazing Upward”, ca. 1480-90

Morning Thoughts: True Nobility

by Howard Hain

 

Jules Bastien-Lepage Pas Mèche (Nothing Doing) 1882 Scottish National Gallery

Jules Bastien-Lepage, “Pas Mèche (Nothing Doing)”, 1882 (Scottish National Gallery)

 

Stand your ground.

Be clear. Be strong.

Be kind.

Your dignity is Mine.

I planted within you “riches and honor and life.” *

Speak as heir.

Protect what’s Mine.

Truth. Beauty. Love.

These only I possess.

Handle with care.

Worry not what others say.

Listen carefully to what’s left unsaid.

My grace fills the gaps.

I send you not to give an answer.

I send you to be My Dignity.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: National Galleries Scotland. Jules Bastien-Lepage, “Pas Mèche (Nothing Doing)”, 1882


* Proverbs 22:4

Morning Thoughts: Rip Tide

by Howard Hain

 

Matisse Bather 1909 MoMA

Henri Matisse, “Bather”, Cavalière, summer 1909 (MoMA)

 

What are we to do when the mighty ocean sucks us out to sea?

We are told that we shouldn’t resist, that we should let it take us into the deep—trusting in the bigger force at hand—trusting that the immutable current will win the day, that the overarching tide will eventually send us back to shore.

And in the meantime?

Tread water. Conserve energy. Keep eyes on heaven above.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Henri Matisse, “Bather”, Cavalière, summer 1909

 

Hummingbird and Passionflowers

by Howard Hain

 

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Martin Johnson Heade, “Hummingbird and Passionflowers” (ca. 1875-85) (The Met)

 

The delicate little bird that resides within each of us.

It hops to and fro. It stands startlingly still.

Very often we are the very ones who chase it away.

But it doesn’t fly far.

Just to the closest branch, that’s just beyond our reach.

And it looks back at us, as if to ask, “Why are you afraid?”

The tiny head of a tiny bird, slightly cocked to the side—a question mark floats from its beak.

It longs to return, to live within us, to build a nest, to raise its young.

But it doesn’t rush back.

No, it waits.

It waits for us to ask for it to return.

It’s a patient creature, that tiny bird.

One may be tempted to say it’s not very smart, but that’s not it at all.

It’s simple. It’s holy. It knows who it is. It’s not afraid of the fall.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father. He blogs at http://www.howardhain.com 

Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardDHain

twitter.com/HowardDHain

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “liking” it, adding a comment, becoming an email subscriber (drop-down menu at top of page), or passing it along via the social-media links below. Your support is greatly appreciated. Step by step. All for God’s glory.


Web Link: The Met Museum. Martin Johnson Heade, “Hummingbird and Passionflowers” (ca. 1875-85)