For Adventia, day 4 I submit a poem I composed a few years ago. Rough around the edges perhaps, but I hope it scratches at the surface enough to help us find place in our Advent journey all the same.May the angst, ambivalence, austerity, and frustration of waiting be rewarded in our common longing for the coming Light.
Too many moons after too many suns and still –
To arise to yet another day with no sight of promised end –
My great, great, great grandparents told this same tale. Still –
My great, great, great grandchildren, will they tell this same tale?
For once pliable, elastic, hope-filled words, spoken from that creepy prophet guy –
In hopscotch rhymes, coffee table books, Sunday paper riddles –
Faithless ones mock. Faithful ones pretend to believe. Seeking ones struggle to hope –
Stuck. In stasis. Solitary, floating in an endless ocean of shark infested water –
Nine-year-old boys sneak their umpteenth grab of dinner being prepared a year after lunch –
We’ve long ago forgotten or even care about what we were waiting for –
In my first installment in this series, I explained the origins of my strange, made up word. “Adventia;” as I see it, a poetic foray into the headwaters of Advent – waiting, hoping, and preparing, together with Fragmentia, those literary illuminations of God’s in-breaking into our world to which we may unite the former.
For most of these we’re taking our cue from a favourite Instagram site of mine – #realpoetsdaily Today, we’re blessed by this gem by T. S. Eliot, excerpted from “The Four Quartets.”
No, the above is not meant as some cheap attempt at a New Joizy accent with the word adventure. Let’s just call it the purposeful amalgamation of Advent and Fragmentia. Let it be a place where the illumination of God’s in-breaking into our world found in the Advent narratives unites with the fragments of literature and faith and life seeking to bring us to deeper understanding of it all.
Advent is upon us once more. With it comes a barrage of books and practices all aimed at helping us get the most from the experience. Last year I chose to post a daily poetic reflection on my poetry website. This year I’d like to do something similar here on innerwoven. It gives me opportunity to dive deep into some of the best words about the best time of the year; the beginning of the church’s calendar at Advent. These poems are both old and new and are found in various places.
For Advent, day 1 we begin with a gorgeous piece by Sally Thomas, which I saw first on a favourite Instagram channel, #realpoetsdaily
Here is “First Sunday” by Sally Thomas ( @sallytnnc )
I’ve been quite open about my struggle with alcoholism and subsequent recovery. Perhaps it is because, through my association with the program and community of A.A. I’ve rediscovered the loving, trustworthy God I once knew. That God somehow got lost along the way, despite my practices of faith, my role as a “professional Christian,” and a radical conversion experience at eighteen.
These days, my faith is simpler. It is not so cliché-ridden, expectation-laden, preconceived notions-driven. It is one of basics: learning humility, self-love, and the practices necessary to maintain and nourish the same. Along the way, I read everything I can get my hands on to assist in that journey. This is a short excerpt from my Seeds of Grace: A Nun’s Reflections on the Spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous by Sister Molly Monahan (pseudonym).
At 10:00am this morning, with aching throats, wet cheeks, and swollen eyes, we watched the livestream of his memorial service, held at Woking Crematorium in London. Tadhg, or “tiger without the er” as he would introduce himself, was laid to rest.
And, in those brief moments, our hearts shattered in pieces.
There are a handful of people for whom I could ascribe the following, “if I could be half the person…” Tadhg was one of those. Genuine, gentle-spirited, fun-loving, unassuming, unpretentious, kind-hearted, generous, and hospitable. There are many who are good to know. He was the one you needed to know, if only for a season. I can say honestly, and without embarrassment, that, to meet Tadhg was to meet Jesus. His life exuded grace and the easy friendship one might expect from the Friend of outcasts and sinners.
His Facebook page states his passion for walking alongside others in holy fellowship:
I am an Anamcara [gaelic for ‘soul friend’]. I consider myself to be a sociable guy, a latter-day celt, a professional and spiritual guy, who would dearly like to hear from you…I am also an independent (non-judgemental, inclusive) priest…and a ceremonialist.
We shared many similar passions including Celtic spirituality, Christian mysticism, theological conversation, a love for probing and formative liturgy, connections between Western and Eastern thought, and making sense of a world in love with itself. We wrote for each other’s blogs and spoke often (usually FB Messenger or email) about things that mattered to us. His perspective was rich, original, and refreshing. He was remarkably free of judgement or hatred of any kind toward anyone. Ever.
In the months before the summer of 2016 I was suffering from a profound emotional deprivation and spiritual ennui. My wife and I decided to take a sabbatical of sorts to the UK. The church for which I worked as Music and Worship Director kindly agreed to a five-week extended “Trip to Bountiful” as I called it.
We had the time but our budget was tight. Tadhg offered, eagerly and warmly, a stay at his tiny but comfortable flat in Fulham. Moreover, he’d be there to pick us up from the airport, having never actually met either of us in person!
Without expectation or guilt he allowed us to use “Hotel Tadhg” as our base of operations while we coddiwompled our way throughout Britain. He dealt with our embarrassingly North American-sized entitlements, returning them all with his beaming smile and dry humour. That journey so changed our lives that we now live in Edinburgh as global servants with our denomination’s mission wing.
God used Tadhg as a big piece of that cosmic puzzle.
When we returned to Britain in 2019 as part of our first encounter with the team of whom we are now a part, where did we stay in London? At Tadhg’s place, of course. For him, there was no question. He had stocked his fridge with all the various food and drink items he knew we liked from the last time we were there. Tadhg was the walking definition of holy hospitality.
In recent years, as Tadhg’s condition worsened, then stabilized, then ultimately took him from us, I felt a growing sense of panic. There were too many things left unsaid to my dear friend, too many conversations unopened, too many laughs unshared, so much more to learn from each other. To hear of his passing was to have one’s soul summarily torn from the body. A world full of ungrateful, spiteful, and unkind people and this is the one to be taken. God, I mean, really?
But, alas, such is the inexplicable nature of our existence. Tadhg, of all people, would chastise those like me who feel tempted to wallow in our pain. He would be the first to lift up our heads, and encourage us to look up to the running clouds, whose playful whimsy is ample reminder of God’s care over all created things.
Dear friend, I shall miss you. The world shall miss you, even if they don’t realize it. Perhaps you can put in a good word that God can help me to be more like you.