Dietrich Bonhoeffer Florilegium

Quote

“’Speak out for those who cannot speak’ – who in the church today still remembers that this is the very least the Bible asks of us in such times as these?”

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Letter to Erwin Sutz,
11 Sept 1934
in Works, Vol 13, 217.

Has anyone else been thinking about the Confessing Church a lot lately?

In honor of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s birthday today, the good people at The Englewood Review of Books have collected five passages from his writings to help us reflect on what costly discipleship might look like for us in the here and now.

edith-breckwoldt-pruefung

Prüfung (Examination)/ The Ordeal by Edith Breckwoldt. 2004, Mahnmal St. Nikolai, Hamburg

The inscription on the other side reads

No man in the whole world

can change the truth.

One can only look for the truth,

find it and serve it.

The truth is in all places.

 Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Again

“the Word became flesh and lived among us” – John 1:14 (NRSV)

 

“Winter landscape, with rocks” by Sylvia Plath

 

Water in the millrace, through a sluice of stone,

plunges headlong into that black pond

where, absurd and out-of-season, a single swan

floats chaste as snow, taunting the clouded mind

which hungers to haul the white reflection down.

monetsoleilcouchantalavacourt_0

“Soleil couchant sur la Seine à Lavacourt, effet d’hiver” by Claude Monet

 

The austere sun descends above the fen,

an orange cyclops-eye, scorning to look

longer on this landscape of chagrin;

feathered dark in thought, I stalk like a rook,

brooding as the winter night comes on.

 

Last summer’s reeds are all engraved in ice

as is your image in my eye; dry frost

glazes the window of my hurt; what solace

can be struck from rock to make heart’s waste

grow green again? Who’d walk in this bleak place?

Advent Again – Christmas Eve

Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined. – Isaiah 9:2b (NKJV)

starry-night-munch

“Stjernenatt” (Starry Night) by Edvard Munch

“Walkative, Talkative” by Alfred Starr Hamilton

When those are the walkative stars
That talked to the immediate prisoners themselves
When those are the talkative stars
That walked along the narrow sledge pathways
Yet those are lines to another star
That were to have been led for changelings
Around a dark dreambox of another kind
That houses our more talkative stars

Advent Again – day 27

The Promise of the Spirit

 

from “Mountain Building” by Victor Hernández Cruz

 

The Moros live on the top floor eating

Roots and have a rooster on the roof

Africans import okra from the bodega

The Indians make a base of guava

On the first floor

The building is spinning itself into

a spiral of salsa

windowslights-debra-hurd

“Windows and Lights” by Debra Hurd

Heaven must be calling or the

Residents know the direction

Because there is an upward pull

If you rise too quickly from your seat

You might have to comb a spirit’s

Hair

They float over the chimneys

Arrive through the smog

Appear through the plaster of Paris

It is the same people in the windowed

Mountains.

Advent Again – day 26

“Your mind will muse on terror… your eyes will see a quiet habitation”

from “Hermeneutics” by Kerri Webster

 

All winter she’s been growing more powerful.

Radiant, says the man at the bar.

Voluptuous, says the docent.

Nervy, says God.

All winter her soul has been juddering.

It feels like drinking gold flakes!

The word sleeps inside the stone.

The wind tongues the underside of the lake.

Inside the rifle scope of time, God

teaches her Grounding Techniques

through his emissary, a Certified Therapist.

Beetles bore their dirty traffic into pine trees.

God says, You cling to deixis

like a life raft. Here, you

say. Now, you say. All winter, you say, like it means

something, days crossed off your compulsive

calendar, wind tied to your wrist like

a pet. This dumb hunger for

fixity! I made your cells

to shed, says God. See them

everywhere, everywhere.

Advent Again – day 25

Hannah and the Josephs, generations of prophets and dreamers

_hide-and-seek_pavel_tchelitchew

“Hide-and-Seek” by Pavel Tchelitchew

Seeker 

           1    2  red-black  3  burnings  4  of a   5    6  sunset at  7  solstice  8    9   

10  they’ve changed  11  shadows  12  pour down  13    14  my brain  15  I’ll be 

16  surprising strangers  17    18  flailing blind  19    20    21  forever  22  they’ve

left  23  the planet  24  with me here  25  26  tentacled Martians  27  replaced

them  28    29  and they’re  30  creeping behind me  31    32  but I  33  won’t

open my eyes  34    35  say the  36  only thing real  37    38  is the cheek-

roughness  39  of this  40  tree I can’t name  41  but  42  I will someday  43   

44  and hold  45  tight  46  tightly till  47    48    49  then  50 

readier not here I

— Jenn Cavanaugh

originally published in Mars Hill Review (2003)

Advent Again – day 24

Let none enslave you again…

the-birth-of-christ-paul-gauguin

“The Birth of Christ” by Paul Gauguin

from “The Negro Mother” by Langston Hughes

Look at my face — dark as the night —
Yet shining like the sun with love’s true light.

I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free.

I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield.

I am the one who labored as a slave,
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave —
Children sold away from me, I’m husband sold, too.

No safety , no love, no respect was I due.

Three hundred years in the deepest South:
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth .

God put a dream like steel in my soul.

Now, through my children, I’m reaching the goal.

 

 

Advent Again – day 23

“again in the pains of childbirth”

 

a-woman-called-mother

“A Woman Called Mother” by M.T. Brown (personal collection)

“From ‘The Black Maria'” by Aracelis Girmay

 

The body, bearing something ordinary as light                           Opens

as in a room somewhere the friend opens in poppy, in flame, burns & bears the child — out.

 

When I did it was the hours & hours of breaking. The bucking of

it all, the push & head

 

not moving, not an inch until,

when he flew from me, it was the night who came

 

flying through me with all its hair,

 

the immense terror of his face & noise.

 

I heard the stranger & my brain, without looking, vowed

a love-him vow. His struggling, merely, to be

 

split me down, with the axe, to two. How true,

the thinness of our hovering between the realms of Here, Not Here.

 

The fight, first, to open, then to breathe,

& then to close. Each of us entering the world

 

& entering the world like this.

Soft. Unlikely.      Then —

 

the idiosyncratic minds & verbs.

Beloveds, making your ways

 

to & away from us, always, across the centuries,

inside the vastness of the galaxy, how improbable it is that this
iteration

 

of you or you or me might come to be at all — Body of fear,

Body of laughing —& even last a second. This fact should make us fall all

 

to our knees with awe,

the beauty of it against these odds,

 

the stacks & stacks of near misses

& slimmest chances that birthed one ancestor into the next & next.

 

Profound, unspeakable cruelty who counters this, who does not see.

& so to tenderness I add my action.

 

Source: Poetry (April 2016)

 

From <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/88747>

Advent Again – day 22

“Do not be afraid to…”

 

“Hymn” by A.R. Ammons

I know if I find you I will have to leave the earth

and go on out

     over the sea marshes and the brant in bays

and over the hills of tall hickory

and over the crater lakes and canyons

and on up through the spheres of diminishing air

past the blackset noctilucent clouds

           where one wants to stop and look

way past all the light diffusions and bombardments

up farther than the loss of sight

    into the unseasonal undifferentiated empty stark

 

And I know if I find you I will have to stay with the earth

inspecting with thin tools and ground eyes

trusting the microvilli sporangia and simplest

     coelenterates

and praying for a nerve cell

with all the soul of my chemical reactions

and going right on down where the eye sees only traces

 

You are everywhere partial and entire

You are on the inside of everything and on the outside

forest-1890-cezanne

Forest (1890) by Paul Cezanne

 

I walk down the path down the hill where the sweetgum

has begun to ooze spring sap at the cut

and I see how the bark cracks and winds like no other bark

chasmal to my ant-soul running up and down

and if I find you I must go out deep into your

    far resolutions

and if I find you I must stay here with the separate leaves

Advent Again – day 21

earthly things and one from above

marika-spence-tornado

Tornado over Queensland, photograph by Marinka Spence

“Poem for the New Year” by Devin Johnston

I’ve tracked myself from day to day
how many steps through a field of snow
how many hours have I slept
what have I eaten
what did I burn
calories or cigarettes
what birds have poured
through Bellefontaine
where mausoleums bear the names
of Busch and Brown
Lemp and Spink
on marble white as winter endive
when I can read my title clear
to mansions in the skies
what have I read
how many words
what facts
statistics biometrics
what data aggregation
what news
of wins and losses
getting and spending
each dawn a color wheel
to gauge the shifting moods
the daylight sunk in trees
an index of attraction
According to the Tao Te Ching
each day brings more
and more of less
less and still less
with no end to nothing
and nothing left undone
Even here in Bellefontaine
along a winding street
silence brings an interval
of yet more distant sound
trucks along the interstate
a plane behind the clouds