Pondering the rare days of June
“As we enjoy the ‘perfect days’ of June, we acknowledge and give thanks for the love and life of God in creation, Incarnation and Pentecost.”
When I was a child, I remember my mother reciting James Russell Lowell’s poem, “What Is So Rare as A Day in June.” She loved nature, and there was always a lilt in her voice as the words of this poem sprang from her lips in the springtime of each year.
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;…
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;…
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;…
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;…
The new life of summer
Lowell’s poem is about new life in nature and the effect it has on us—joy chasing grief and sorrow away. In the church’s liturgy, we have just experienced the exhilaration and hope of Pentecost. The Spirit remains among us, leading us into the new life of summer and into the light of truth.
June opens with Trinity Sunday, followed by the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. It is hard to imagine a greater contrast: these two doctrines lined up back to back. The Trinity seems a bit abstract, ethereal, distant, while Christ’s humanity is concrete, material, accessible to our senses (hard to think of anything more human than bodies and blood).
Trinity as a community of love
If we think of the Trinity as a community of love, then it is not so hard to understand. Fourteenth-century anchoress (a British term for “hermit”) Julian of Norwich wrote a book about her visions of the crucified Christ which contains a masterful description of the Trinity. In her visions she encountered the Trinity joined together in all their thoughts and actions as a community of love whose greatest joy is to bring life and salvation to humanity. She sees no tension between the human Christ suffering on the cross out of love, and the glory and splendor of the divine persons united in love.
There is a relatively unknown tradition of paintings that portray the Trinity at the cross. When I meditate on these images, I always think of Julian. In some paintings, the first person is seated on a “mercy seat” (Exodus 25:17) holding the cross which bears the bleeding body of Christ. The Spirit in the form of a dove hovers over all. In others, we see a pietà that portrays not Mary but the Father—often with a visage of profound grief—holding the dead, bloody body of Christ. Again, the Spirit as dove hovers over all.
In a direct, clear and sensual way, these images communicate a doctrine of the Trinity as a community of love, and they link this doctrine to the body and blood of Christ. When we come together in love and support with friends, family or even strangers who are in trouble or suffering, we participate in the Incarnation and in the trinitarian love of our God.
The truths of our faith
As we enjoy the “perfect days” of June, we acknowledge and give thanks for the love and life of God in creation, Incarnation and Pentecost. The liturgy this month invites us to ponder these truths of our faith, to link them and to make them come alive in our daily lives.
How do you think of the Trinity? How do you acknowledge God in creation, Incarnation and Pentecost? Share your thoughts by clicking on Contact Us
Tuesday, June, 16, 2009