the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking

Advent

Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover—
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning—
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour—
And Christ comes with a January flower.

Noun. 1. whin – very spiny and dense evergreen shrub with fragrant golden-yellow flowers; common throughout western Europe. furze, gorse, Irish gorse, Ulex europaeus. genus Ulex, Ulex – genus of Eurasian spiny shrubs: gorse.

if a man is willing to be common and to live a common life … he will submit himself to a mysterious, transcendent reality

Day by day, God presents us with a time to work, a time to eat, a time to sleep, a time to read our children stories before bed. The working, the eating, the sleeping, the reading… from day to day, tradition, fate, family, society, and the Church have already determined for us what we should do. If a man is willing to be common and to live a common life filled with times, seasons, and rituals which God makes common to all, he will submit himself to a mysterious, transcendent reality. The infinite Word entered finite history through a finite body; as a finite creature, through finite means, the common man enters the infinite. The man who is ever looking to make himself unique, to distinguish himself from others, to discern and seize the special things of the world— such a man will always isolate himself further and further until he is bereft of companions, bereft of comforters, heroes, and lovers.

Posted by Joshua Gibbs on his Facebook page yesterday (presumably from CiRCE’s Atrium lecture that he gave yesterday). Brings to mind maxim 18 of Fr. Thomas Hopko’s “55 Maxims of the Christian Life.” That is: “Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.”