Candlemas is a church feast with a long history whose roots at a later point tangle with both Groundhog Day and the feast of St. Brigid. Officially it is called the Feast of the Presentation, commemorating Christ’s presentation in the temple with both Anna and Simeon as witness.
The guiding image of Candlemas, as Simeon so beautifully sings, is Light – Christ’s “light to lighten the nations.” My recent book contains two poems centered around Candlemas, and I though in honor of the feast today I would share the second one with you.
Here in my home state of Oregon, wildfires have become enormously destructive the past few weeks and caused many to flee their homes. I’ve been meditating this week on two related images: the burning bush (which in traditional iconography is seen as a symbol of Mary) and the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt. This poem is written on behalf of, and mostly from the perspective of, all those who must flee home – whether because of war, wildfire, or any other danger.
“My deepest vocation is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.”
When I began this poetry challenge in Summer 2019, the subtitle I had in mind was “A sacred journey through an ordinary year.” In many ways, this year was indeed filled with the ordinary stuff of life – like many of you, I worked two jobs to make ends meet, worried and schemed about the future, struggled with a mental health diagnosis, made new friends.
In other ways, however, it turned out to be a landmark year, including of course a worldwide pandemic, the largest civil rights movement in decades, and the complete reorganizing of our collective lives. I never could have expected the way that poetry would become, rather than an escape, a way to fully live through and experience all that this year would bring.
One year later, the Nouwen quote above still feels like the most appropriate way to describe how I view myself as an artist. I’m incredibly grateful for the gifts I have been given in this past year, and I hope in some small way these poems can be a gift to you as well. There are SO many I haven’t shared with you yet, and I’m extremely excited to be compiling them into a book that will be available by October 1st!
Even though this poetry challenge has come to a close, none of the opportunities presented to me each day have changed. Every moment is still transparent with possibility. Each person I meet is still a fellow-traveler with a story to tell.
The question remains: Can I remain open to being changed?