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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update,
October 2000

It is the feast day of Francis of Assisi. We are both joyful and sober. Mass in Belfast with morning sun and radiant colors enroute. Francis is speaking. He is speaking through the presence of the diocesan priest, the Franciscan sister-hermit who weaves wool and builds her yurt, and the Jesuit brother-visionary who creates enthusiasm and builds hospitable venues for the handicapped. That’s the joy!

Francis is suggesting something to us that we might not be ready to understand. In this morning’s nature, scripture, friends-in-spirit -- Francis is suggesting we mirror with him the insight of Christ – the insight Francis received as poverty. Poverty is the giving away of everything that is not God. What is not God? (There’s the koan!) And that’s a sobering question!

Perhaps the insight of poverty freely chosen is that nothing is excluded from the sacred mystery of the question “What is God?” Brother sun, sister moon, brother fire, sister water, brothers wind and air, sister/mother earth –-- those who endure sickness and trial, those who die to what is not God --- this is the family we belong to, this is the poverty of seeing one another in the transparency of freedom. Is this the paradox of the phrase “mortal life?” Is this “death in life” what frees us from what is not God? Is this why the foxes have their dens, and birds their nests but the sons and daughters of humankind are to mirror the Christ-insight? What belongs to us alone? Nothing. What belongs to all in God? Everything. If so, then, what are we to do?

Letting go of what is not God is, perhaps, what Costanzo, Betty, Rick, the man with a cane, the women in the pews all gathered for this morning. Falling into the peace of Francis’ insight felt simple at that moment. That open handed, open hearted, open minded view that our mother, father, sister, brother – any and all creatures, any and all plant, stone, particle of soil or breath of air – that these are each and all …ours, us, Christ’s loving sight.

Perhaps poverty is learned only when what is not God falls away from us and what is God is all there is. Perhaps poetry is how we see what is there, as suggested by poet Galway Kinnell: "Poetry is the singing of what is to be on our own planet." 

Once it occurred to me that: “Christ is transparence…Zen is this seeing through.”


With awe and atonement this Rosh Hashanah &Yom Kippur, and with a prayer “Pax et Bonum” for all of us this month of Francis,



PS: Included below are the poem by Galway Kinnell, Saint Francis and the Sow, and the poem by Francis, Canticle of the Sun  (with thanks to the sites providing them).

Canticle of the Sun

Francis of Assisi, 1225

Most high, all-powerful, all good, Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor
And all blessing.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy
To pronounce your name.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
And first my lord Brother Sun,
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright
And precious and fair.

All praise be yours, My Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all the weather's moods,
By which you cherish all that you have made.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious and pure.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful is he, how gay! Full of power and strength.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon
For love of you; through those who endure
Sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those She finds doing your will!
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.

Translation by Benen Fahy, O.F.M.
from St. Francis of Assisi: Writings and Early Biographies
edited by Marion A. Habig, copyright 1973, Franciscan Herald Press
source for this translation
original Italian

Detail from the panel painting St. Francis of Assisi,
St. Mary of the Angels, Assisi, by Cimabue.
According to an inscription on the panel itself,
it was originally used to cover Francis' coffin.


Saint Francis And The Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

© 1980 by Galway Kinnell

Online Source: http://faculty.washington.edu/jnh/vol1no1/sow.htm

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