Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Fire is the only fruit of Winter"

Photo by 0olong, flickr

Today's text comes courtesy of Khalil Gibran, poet and mystic:

The Life of Love XVI: Winter

Come close to me, oh companion of my full life;
Come close to me and let not Winter's touch
Enter between us. Sit by me before the hearth,
For fire is the only fruit of Winter.

Speak to me of the glory of your heart, for
That is greater than the shrieking elements
Beyond our door.
Bind the door and seal the transoms, for the
Angry countenance of the heaven depresses my
Spirit, and the face of our snow-laden fields
Makes my soul cry.

Feed the lamp with oil and let it not dim, and
Place it by you, so I can read with tears what
Your life with me has written upon your face.

Bring Autumn's wine. Let us drink and sing the
Song of remembrance to Spring's carefree sowing,
And Summer's watchful tending, and Autumn's
Reward in harvest.

Come close to me, oh beloved of my soul; the
Fire is cooling and fleeing under the ashes.
Embrace me, for I fear loneliness; the lamp is
Dim, and the wine which we pressed is closing
Our eyes. Let us look upon each other before
They are shut.
Find me with your arms and embrace me; let
Slumber then embrace our souls as one.
Kiss me, my beloved, for Winter has stolen
All but our moving lips.

You are close by me, My Forever.
How deep and wide will be the ocean of Slumber,
And how recent was the dawn!

---

I write this post in a semi-dark church. Not a quiet church, though. The baptismal font in the center of the aisle is gurgling, the Hispanic Heritage Group is celebrating in the foyer, a fellow choir member stops by to say hi.

I am here waiting for practice to begin. I am here escaping the misty gray chill so typical of a mid-Atlantic December day. I am here trying to stay awake after a much too-late night of improv and socializing, and I am thinking the slumber of winter might not be such a bad thing after all.

I learned about this poem at a chorale concert a couple weeks ago in a song called "Winter" by Z. Randall Stroope, based on Gibran's text. Those lyrics, however, are modified -- a gentler version of Gibran's bone-deep melancholy that makes it seem like the poet merely has seasonal affective disorder.



What strikes me about the original "Winter" text is its palpable grief -- its mourning at separation, its loneliness, its desperate plea for a peaceful end. Spring, Summer, and Autumn all get conjoined to happy occasions, but Winter is reserved for death. It is a somnolent thief, snatching everything "but moving lips."

But "Winter's touch" isn't all bad. It has brought the narrator and his lover together one last time. It has prompted them to reflect on the life they've shared. It has illuminated with a flickering fire "the glory of [their] heart."

In this respect, Gibran might as well be speaking to God as to a lover. Because it's not always a matter of keeping the dark and cold away; it's about inviting the warmth to your side and letting it hold you.

Right now we in the Christian tradition are in the Advent season, where we wait through the darkest point of the year for the coming of God. So it does me well to remember, as I sit in the semi-dark church with winter squeezing in through the cracks, that even if fire is the only fruit of winter, it's a damn good one to have.

Prayer #233: Come Close to Me

The letter has yet to arrive. The phone has yet to ring. The carrier pigeon has yet to collapse in fatigue on the porch. But I know it's coming with a message meant only for my eyes, and for that I wait at the drafty back door, wrapping my sweater tighter, keeping watch.

Amen.

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