One of the greatest gifts of my life was the opportunity to walk the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral with the great Celtic poet, John O'Donahue. I will never forget his meditations the following morning on death. "Imagine the gaze of the one who loved who before you drew your first breath, " he said in his warm, deep, lilting voice, "and imagine going back into the arms of the one who loved you before the world began". I looked forward to going on a walking pilgrimage to Ireland with this great spirit of a man, but put it off for a year because of financial concerns. A year later, John was dead. Not going on that journey to Ireland with him while I had the chance may well be the greatest regret of my life. The memory of the shock of his death- suddenly, in his sleep at the age of 56- remains a potent reminder to not postpone the opportunities to feed the longings of my soul. His untimely death is a perpetual wake-up call to seize and savor the moments of beauty whenever we can.
No one wrote better about the themes of beauty, longing and belonging than John. His last gift to the world was a gorgeous collection of poems infused with a rare spacious radiance that cradles the soul. I urge you to buy To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings for yourself and anyone you love for Christmas. The following poem seems perfect for this Advent time of waiting, watching and yearning:
by John O'Donahue
Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into
your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants
you to take.
May the forms of your belonging- in love, creativity,
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of
May a secret Providence guide your thought and
nurture your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness
with which your body inhabits the world.
May your heart never be haunted by ghost-
structures of old damage.
May you come to accept you longing as divine
May you know the urgency with which God longs