Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Midnight prayers strangely incline God's favor. I admit to an affinity for prayer in the middle of the night, in the hours that are still and quiet. A monastic enclosure of time, rather than space, bounded by the light and the darkness.

 We are without power after Hurricane Sandy swept through last night, and expect to be for a couple of days more. We are lucky; there is no damage to the house, and we have food, a way to cook and the enormous blessing of hot water. I am writing this by the light of a flashlight, diffused through a glass of water, in a house bereft of the hum of the refrigerator, or the whirring of the furnace fan. The winds have ceased and even the rain is so quiet I cannot hear it on the roof. It's the gift of a temporary hermitage.

 Still and silent as these night times of prayer may be, it does not necessarily follow that they are always serene. Jacob isn't the only one who wrestles with angels in the night. Last week I spent a night of prayer that was anything but serene. What does it mean to pray on the sharp edge of "now" -- not of what has been, not of what might be, but present to this very moment? The Boy was missing (or at least I thought he was, turns out he was in his bed), and I prayed, in that painful space of uncertainty.

 I was hugely relieved when Chris called at 6:40 am to let me know he was fine, but relief notwithstanding, the experience — along with Robin's sermons on Job — has permeated my prayer since. You can read some of what I'm thinking in this piece posted at This Ignatian Life, or better yet, you can do as I did in prayer last night, contemplate Marilyn Nelson's poem Matins (2:30 am) which explores these same landscapes of anxiety and poverty of spirit.

I  love the ambiguity of her penultimate lines:
 or how to spell relief.
Jesus. I must be the smallest
grain of the salt of the earth.


  1. Thank you for this post and the links. I especially appreciated your post at The Ignatian Life. The title is so descriptive of what you were experiencing and of what we have all experienced for different reasons at one time or another - life-and-death prayer. I had already read and truly appreciate Robin's sermons and I'm grateful for the introduction to Marilyn Nelson's poetry.

  2. Oh, Marilyn Nelson's poem is a favorite of mine, I love her use of words and what those words bring forth.

    How true about the not-serene qualities that the long, dark and seemingly silent night brings. I am reminded of St. John of the Cross, of course, that long dark night of the soul.

    Yet it is in these moments that the dawn begins to break, isn't it? It is all ambiguity, haze, shadow, with God as our only Light. Sometimes visible, sometimes not so much.

    1. I have met Marilyn a couple of times and she is a wonderful teller of tales as well....the stories of her poems are as well wound as her poems

  3. Oh, her poems are wonderful. Maybe somewhere therein lies the fourth sermon, which is pretty much a blank screen at the moment. It has something to do with the courage inherent in starting over after the wakeful prayers conclude with an outcome even worse than the one you fear.

  4. OH. I think I just got it (the sermon). THANK you, Michelle!

    1. you are welcome! noe I am hoping you got electricity as well!!

  5. Enjoy the quiet. May you hear and rejoice in those familiar but missing sounds soon.