Sunday, April 12, 2009

This fragile earth, our island home

Easter is tomorrow; I just got home from the Great Vigil, one of the oldest services in the Christian Church, where we go from the darkness of the crucifixion into the light of the Resurrection. It begins after sunset, when a fire is lit, and from it the Paschal candle. The deacon leads the procession into the dark church, lit only by the candle, and the first part of the service is conducted in candlelight. This contrast of darkness and light, death and life, has at its core the primal human need to celebrate life and spring and rebirth. It parallels the awakening of the earth and our spirits after a long winter, and punctuates the relationship between our spirits and the earth. The service begins sombre and ends overflowing with hope and optimism.

This year, a couple of lines from various parts of the service keep running through my mind. As we think about spring, and growth, and growing green things, we should also start thinking about preserving those growing green things. One of the prayers in the Anglican/Episcopal Book of Common Prayer -- a marvelous poetic work, whether or not you're Christian -- comes from the prayers said before Communion, the ritual remembering Passover. We give thanks for the creation of "this fragile earth, our island home." It is fragile, and the other prayer asks for the grace to "become faithful stewards of thy bounty." I think that's such a fantastic charge for all of us, regardless of religion. This earth is entrusted to us, is held by us in trust for future generations, for God, for whomever. It's not ours to destroy; we should all strive to be faithful stewards of the bounty.

Those who know me know I don't usually talk about religion like this; these prayers are beautiful poetry, and important petitions from us to the earth as well as any creator.

On that note, here's another of my favorite poems about spring and green and the awe I feel on beautiful days and the desire to grow and plant and make and care and support sustain preserve conserve save, complete with a photo from Flickr user mobilestreetlife (since it's too dark to take pictures of the buds on my little tree by the front porch). Regularly scheduled programming resumes tomorrow.

i thank you God for most this amazing
E.E. Cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of the trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

From his collection Xaipe.


  1. So beautiful it made me cry.

  2. i love that poem, and i hoped it would be the poem you posted, and i very much loved this post. i also have never heard of/participated in this vigil, but it sounds like the opposite of my fav part of christmas, and i like that.


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