In the midst of so much to mourn in the world at large and for dear friends and family, I found myself awakening in great joy today. The “morning’s at seven, all’s right with the world” kind of joy, and I pondered it. Perhaps it is because today is my daughter’s 28th birthday, perhaps it is the grace and peace which comes with trusting God and the luminous web of connection in which we all reside.
In the Jewish tradition, the prayer of mourning focuses on God’s majesty, on abundant peace flowing from the One who creates harmony. This prayer, The Mourner’s Kaddish, I want to share with you. Normally it is prayed in community when ten people (a minyan) gather.
This reminder of God’s majesty and the value of community in grief I find in Jack Gilbert’s marvelous poem, “A Brief for the Defense.” Finally, I remember the best way to live each day in recalling Mary Oliver’s, “When Roses Speak, I Pay Attention.” Today I offer you these poems. May we all have a chance to pray them in community and know God’s unfailing love.
The Mourner’s Kaddish (English Translation) Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan. May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, To which we say: Amen. Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity. Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort. To which we say: Amen. May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel. To which we say: Amen. May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel. To which we say: Amen. A Brief for the Defense By Jack Gilbert Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants. Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay. If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. We must admit there will be music despite everything. We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning. To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come. When Roses Speak, I Pay Attention By Mary Oliver “As long as we are able to be extravagant we will be hugely and damply extravagant. Then we will drop foil by foil to the ground. This is our unalterable task, and we do it joyfully.” And they went on, “Listen, the heart-shackles are not, as you think, death, illness, pain, unrequited hope, not loneliness, but lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety, selfishness.” Their fragrance all the while rising from their blind bodies, making me spin with joy