I've been in a(nother) funk lately... struggling with my own demons and dealing with some painful situations. Not that I'm unique in this--we all have pain, we all have sorrow. So, this week I'm especially thankful to have somebody to lean on. That "somebody" has come to me in the form of four amazing women.
Two of those women are dear friends who know me better than I know myself sometimes. They are always there for me, but never more than when I'm in despair and on a precipice. I'm thankful to both of them for talking me down from the ledge this week.
A third woman, also a dear friend, brought me a gift on Sunday that is full of grace and healing. It's a beautiful book of icons and lyric poems called Mother of God Similar to Fire. The icons are by William Hart McNichols and the reflections are by Mirabai Starr.
Starr's reflections are another wonderful example of ekphrastic poetry, like those of Orthodox poet and author, Scott Cairns.
Father McNichols is a Catholic priest who worked as a hospice chaplain for a number of years before studying iconography. Mirabai Starr is, as Fr. McNichols says, "a bright and highly respected author and translator and is gifted above all with a genuine poet-touched soul. Having lost a child, she has dedicated herself to a ministry of sitting with the bereaved."
I don't want to infringe on McNichols and Starr's copyrights, so I won't quote any of the poems in full here, or show any of the complete images. I hope they won't mind the details I'm sharing from two of the icons, and a few lines from the reflections that have blessed me so much this week.
Oh, and the fourth woman? Of course it's Mary, the Mother of God.
Excerpt from "The Woman Clothed With the Sun" ("Encircled by sunlight, rooted in moonlight"....)
Whenever we attempt to give birth
to something beautiful and true
the dragons of this world seem to crop up
and try to eradicate it...
Wrap me in your protective light, Mother Mary,
so that I may in turn protect the holiness I carry.
Excerpt from "Our Lady of Grace, Vladimir"
Help me rekindle the awe that infuses your countenance,
the fleeting joy that comes at the inevitable price of pain.
Let me be grateful again
for the grace or ordinary moments,
where God dwells.
I've set this detail as the wallpaper on my cell phone today, to remind me of Her presence throughout the day. I hope these images and words also bring you grace and peace.