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Oct 2020
St. John of the Cross throws
twenty spiritual poems into
the Living Flame of Love,
watching them burn into
black, shredded shards
of nada and todo. Nothing
for the finite, human spirit,
everything for the divine-
driven soul, longing for
sweet, eternal union with
The Source of All That Is.
How John can savor
the delicate aroma of
the incense of praise
that emanates from the fire,
love translated as living
grace infused into the soul,
dead to itself, but alive
in the grasp of God. How does
the poet usurp the saint?
How does the penitent
claim his forgiveness,
his peace, his inward
teachings of the labyrinthine
love in which his soul
wanders, waiting on a sacred guide
to lead him into the arbor
of righteousness, of purity,
of ecstatic communion
with the Living Flame,
which sears away all
traces of the arrogant,
self-driven soul, the ratio-
empirical self that lusts
for certainty from finite
possibilities, that sees no God
in the niches of nature?
How the wretched ones retreat
from glory, how the minions
of myopic seekers miss the mark:
hamartia of the heart.

John bears the cross as his
reward and burden, as the perfect
ending to his story of yearning
for union, of longing for love that
diminishes nada, that teases out
todo: The totality of Being that
succors the senses, mends the mind,
washes clean every obstacle
that stands in its way, elevates
every submission of will
above the calamity and
cacophony of the polluted world,
of tireless treks into temples
of doom to assert the supremacy
of the making mind, the force
of ratiocination that reigns over
every investigation and claim
into the nature of the self,
over every hypothesis,
experiment, spread sheet of data
and library of laws. Whose law
does the thirsting soul obey?
Is it not its own until the soul
is purified in the Living Flame
of Love, the eternal fire
that lights up the world in its
hubris and high comedy,
in its tragic truculence,
resisting grace that beckons
like shimmering sheets
of waterfalls as they splash
into deep, green pools, as they
plummet into like becomes
like, into the dancing dawn
of union, of embrace,
of the self singed of all sin,
raised up into the boundless
beauty of beatific visions,
of the wholeness of the will
and mind and soul and spirit,
of the renewed mortal body and
the traces of creation that cling
still to their impermanent places,
yearning also for perfect union,
for an end to their nothingness,
to their persistent contingency,
crying out for the beginning of
everlasting love, for the denouement
of existence's tragedy of errors:
the anti-Shakespearean play
of opposites, of ghosts and
beings of doubt, death and
decline trapped in the infinite
depths of self-obsession,
gazing into Narcissus’ mirror,
the focus receding to the blurred
horizon of perception,
to the inscrutable, shattered
realm of Imago Dei.

John invokes the power for
his soul to rise above every
mountain, to mount every
cairn that points forward
toward divinity, eternity,
ecstasy, authenticity
of the self made todo out of nada,
made to rest in the green
pools of destiny, droplets
splashing his face, falls
slaking his thirst, as he no longer
swims against the tides
that roil in his spirit like
pieces of a poem engulfed
in The Living Flame of Love,
scorched clean of error,
turned toward the wind
that scatters ashes abroad,
that blows where it will,
toward the telos that never
disappoints, that never dies:
Where every metaphor turns into
an axiom of beauty: the endless
struggle of like becomes like.

-- For the Rev. Tom Schaefer
Arlice W Davenport
Written by
Arlice W Davenport  M/Kansas
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