Tuesday, January 1, 2013


The last table top Christmas village has been put away, and the Norfolk Island pine has joined a sister Norfolk on the patio, still gleaming with the few silver icicles left on its branches. The New Year has settled in with threat of rain.

This morning, as I was meditating on the New Year, an old quatrain I once memorized during a shut-in winter I spent in Maine, came to mind. It’s from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, an odd rhyme that somehow cleared the heavy humidity in the morning atmosphere:

“Now the New Year reviving old Desires
The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires,
Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough
Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires [draws a deep breath]…”

I could almost see Moses’ hand on a bough of the Norfolk pine outside and hear Jesus drawing a deep breath at the condition of the world into which he was born and that hasn’t altered much since his birth.

Sunday, I preached a homily that included the thinking of a man called Rauschenbusch in Saving Paradise who identified six kinds of sin that combined to kill Christ: religious bigotry; graft and political power; a corrupt legal system; mob spirit and mob action; militarism; and class contempt and class divisions [not to mention family divisions necessitated by greed]. Same old, same old, as far as I can observe, but it’s strange that these sins are hardly mentioned as faces on the totem pole of sin nowadays.

However, we draw a deep breath, and the “thoughtful Soul to Solitude” retires to contemplate the mystery of the season and move on, attempting to do those things that would go undone and might be lost if we don’t do them – teach, write, heal, love, forgive, and as I said in the homily, “disseminate the hope that our spiritual journey will end unified with the heart of God.”

And the resolutions? Well, my thoughts support the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in his Advent letter to the Anglican primates, said: “What we aspire to as Anglicans is not to be a federation of loosely connected and rather distant relatives who sometimes send Christmas cards to each, but a true family and fellowship in which we share our hopes and know that we are responsible for each other’s well-being and integrity before God…”

Amen! ‘Seems to me that in this season of “thoughtful solitude,” we’re invited to become more engaged with the people and the life around us…to be useful and to help others get on course in their spiritual lives instead of engaging in the six categories listed above.

Note: The above translation of the Rubaiyat was derived from Fitzgerald’s English version in a beautiful book that includes quatrains translated in English, French, and Farsi, which I brought back from Persia in 1975. The miniature was rendered by Hossein, Behzad Miniatur.

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