On the Margins, Beauty


“— for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.” 

– From “As Kingfishers Catch  Fire,” Gerald Manley Hopkins 


Go to where the secure, for security’s sake,
have banished the seedy and the unseemly,
the crooked and the vile: God’s maimed ones

Go to where sleazies
settle, hustlers
hustle, and beggars do their begging

Go to where hope’s outskirts border wastelands of despair,
where the well-to-do have discarded
the disfigured children of their lust and ambition: 

Otherwise known as the groaning, wandering
forgotten, who celebrate an eternal scrap-metal Shakkot upon
the coiling, roaming dusts –

Otherwise known as the dispensable,
unavoidable holocausts
of the dreams and successes of a few…

Go there, to the margins,
and find your beauty.
For the face of the Lord shines in sodden faces
and in dirty places




To stand in the center of one’s own nothingness in solitude before God is like attempting to hold one’s hand over a flame: it is nearly impossible to remain there for more than a few seconds without being overwhelmed by the pain and then withdrawing back to safety, where things are more comfortable. But go there we must. We have to lose ourselves in the furnace of this nothingness – and die. Trusting, of course, that we will be born again, and continually reborn, in the Spirit. 

Amo ergo sum

The Spirit, as von Balthasar rightly says, is the “reality of mutual presence and indwelling.” This is the core and essence of prayer. The Spirit enables prayer (which is the basis of, and in some sense, already in itself, eternal life) by enabling us to share intimately, like a lover, in the inner life of God. And so, to be made in the image of God is to be created with this capacity – not so much for rational thought (as many in the past have claimed), but for love. Love is what makes man man. The fullness of life consists, then, in shared life, in a life of mutual self-giving. God, through Jesus, initiated this movement. It all boils down to this one, simple fact: God’s interaction with the human race runs lie a love poem. Our life itself is a love poem unfolding.  

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I am most at home
Where the air is filled
With the sound of bells

Where the Sun of Eternity
Spills out the
Open door
Of all things

Where the Nameless
Draws near in a dark wood
And suffuses lonliness
With the chaste flame of starlight

Born, we are sundered from Paradise,
Left to fumble – confusedly, mindlessly –
Through the shambles
That make up our inheritance

But I feel in this moment
– this precious, brief moment –
That the Angel has stepped aside,
Sheathed his sword of flame,
And granted admittance
Into the springtime meadows
Of our Origin:

A Grace, costing nothing
– Nothing, save what it took
To learn that it was free:

The pain of a thousand deaths
And a thousand risings

Deo Gratias – A Prayer


Just as a stretch of brume
Will with heaven suddenly
Part –
Will, wayward,
From its source in cloudwork host,
And begin to wend its way
Through barren mountain passes,
The rent and the rift of them as it
Courses, unveiling in its wake, at long last,
A beatitude of color,
Joyous, brimful,

Newborn, where before
Loveliness held no dominion,
Where before the scabrous basalt
Twisted with rage
Scabrous, twisted
And cruel,
Each one angry at life
And at every other,

Angry at the
Loutish, slogging Sun
That doesn’t care,
And never will,
And at the hoarse wind
That whips through them
Ceaselessly, howling…

Their primal,
Toungeless, cry
– for what? –
Become a soundless resounding
Through each cavernous
Steep, swallowed up
Once and for all
By the listless
In which no star would seem to burn
For hope’s nightwatch…

– Yes, just so, Lord,
Just so did you pass
Through all of man’s inexplicable
Suffering, only to leave man himself
– Inexplicably, shall I say miraculously? –
In bloom.