What the Desert Is and What It Isn’t

The flight into the Desert is by no means a flight away from, but a headlong flight towards. The Desert is nothing if not engagement, combat.


A Wonderful Grace…

What a wonderful grace it is to experience and to participate in, in at least some dim, imperfect fashion, the longing of God’s Heart for all humanity and for all creation

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.  

A Terrible Love

Lord, your Love is a terrible one. You ask me to give up those things to which I cling for life: my time, my energy; my precious melancholy; the kind of person I should like to be and appear before others. In short, you ask me strip myself of myself. Your awful Love demands it…

Promethean Desire


“We either contemplate or exploit.” We’ve heard it so many times. And yet how few of us truly live it. Another phrase, and perhaps less known: “The glory of our eyes is to become the eyes of the dove.” Yes, yes…Beauty is yearning to gratuitously pour itself into our lives, flood them in profusion, but we are all of us blind, obtuse, and thankless creatures – swinish and miserly to the last. We want to storm beauty’s gates, but then only to strong-arm it into submission, and greedily gut it of its secrets. Like grace, beauty, to be fully itself, must be utterly free. Dostoevsky once said something to the effect that beauty is a kind of arena in the heart of man within which God and the Devil do battle. The whole idea could also be brought down to this: Holding beauty in one’s hands is a bit like playing with fire. Originally a gift inscribed in all creation for the purpose of spurring the heart on to the joy of complete self-abandonment, beauty has, since the Fall, become a treacherous incendiary towards the exact opposite. It is no longer inherently trustworthy. But it is not beauty’s fault – the problem lies in our own distorted hearts, penetrated as they are to their unknowable depths by a Promethean desire for plunder and possession. That is, alas, as with so much else, where the problem lies. And so, rather than allow those scattered fragments of Paradise – whose glimmering, as if from a mirror, we catch askance in passing faces, in moments of true communion with others, and in all the solitary places of the world – to lead us beyond ourselves into the Source of All Beauty, which is ever present and yet infinitely beyond us, we so often would rather cling to them, as if they were pieces of driftwood in a raging storm: straight to the bottom of the sea.

“And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day”

Jacob Wrestling-1Convinced
Arrival would one day 
Receive him
In forerooms furnished 
With futility, strain,
Defeat – 
The like

Or (better yet): that he would catch
It prowling the gloaming tallgrass 
Beyond the dark eyes
Of women, hidden there,
And indenominate

Or (better still): wrest it
Straight from cold, 

Gazing up now
Into the swaying branches
Of the trees: how they
In the morning emptiness
That is our only
Claim, our sole
Knowing that, ineluctably,
We are all seeds strewn
Widely, stars
Set burning
Across the
Sweeping canvas:

Never touching

Veil of the Temple Torn in Two


New seed, a new

Sown in the emptiness of every night
Spent alone,
Past and future;

Culled and cultivated out of the abysses in me;

And then finally brought forth to bloom
By the tender hands
Of the One who loves me…

Oh, where are you now old man? Where have you gone?


Like the blowing of dry leaves in autumn;
Like the obsolescent crumbling of pagan marble
In twilight halls of forget…

Ave Maris Stella

You there, just now rising
Above the farthest reaches
Of all the wide-world’s longing:
Quicken the Moment of this night!
Fan the crickets (eventide minstrels) and
Candle flies (twilight danseurs) into
Life! Summon forth
Hidden springs
– long buried, almost forgotten –
Of deepening desire!

Blissful soles of mine, moon-white upon
Star-spark leaf-down and dew
Grasses – They hasten
Toward the verge of
Earth’s compass, that I might
Stretch out
And touch
You – kiss you,

Oh! To feel the radiant and pearly swell
Of pure innocence!

To burn in the silvery music
Of this moonlight!

Heart starts

               Heart sputters

                                Heart rises up…

And, suspended by your gaze,
Is slain on the altar of your beauty

A child
Once more…

Untitled #1


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



Before the steady four wheels
Of cradlebound infancy
Could become in him adolescence’s
Fledgeling, jump-start
Two, sorrow made him to know,
In the secret dwellings of his heart,
The “inconsolable origin of all tears.”

In other children, youth flourished and
Grew strong, like young cedar,
And out of their propitious lips
A summer song would issue, limpid and flowing;
And with palms thrust radiantly upwards towards the sky
(as if to offer up to God innocence’s abundant first-fruits),
They would drink copiously of the sunny breezes
(as if to, in turn, partake of the chalice
of His glory and happily, guilelessly, say, “Amen”)…

– And meanwhile, he would shudder in his room at night,
Alone, enfolded
In the yawning weft
Of Sorrow’s shadowy mantle.


Lord, you made me to be without a home
Where all the others seemed to find one;
Turned my blossoming lea into a barren landscape
Riddled, as after a fire, with the smoldering,
Broken bramble of heart-scraps,
Upon which ashes would fall, and still fall
Softly, silently, cold – the fallout of dreams…

All those long, twilight hours at Father’s,
Where with door closed Waiting
Would stretch wide and thin
– Like the growing shadows –
And the Abyss would seem to open up,
Press in upon me, and
Brush up against my face, lightly…

What were they, then? Lord,

Are you listening?

I will answer: Training days,
Training days of longing and lack,
Where longing grew strong, and lack,
To the full stature of manhood

And now a man I am become indeed.
In place of a warm hearth somewhere,
I make my home upon the stillborn plane
And wander beneath the silent firmament.
And the weight of a thousand, thousand years
Flickers dimly, like ancient stars,
Out these obsidian eyes