Monday, August 22, 2011

Gruda's Words

George Weigel's Witness to Hope is one of the best biographies I have ever read. It is clear, compelling, and as I read, several things happen:
  1. I am constantly amazed at how much Blessed John Paul II had to overcome (especially in Communist Poland) and how much he achieved throughout his life. 
  2. I grow more and more grateful for the life and ministry of this pope of my childhood, who I did not immediately appreciate as I should have. But I'm making up for lost time now!
  3. The humor, wisdom, and faith of Blessed John Paul II inspire and challenge me, and I finally discover the richness of his theological and philosophical insights more fully (and at the same time, I also come to recognize the flaws in my own thinking more deeply)
  4. Often, when Weigel references certain writings of Blessed John Paul II I feel compelled to add them to my reading list, or if they are short, look them up immediately. 
On that note, in a chapter of Witness to Hope that I read a few days ago, Weigel references Blessed John Paul II's poetry. Thankfully, (but not to my surprise) my father has a copy of Karol Wojtyla, Collected Poems, which I pulled from the shelf and perused a bit, to my edification.

Jerzy Peterkiewicz, the translator of thise collection, explains that the cycle entitled "Meditation on Death" was first published "under the pen name Gruda, which means 'a clod of earth'" (147) 

Gruda is a fitting name for the author of this cycle, though if I may be permitted to write this, Blessed Pope John Paul II was one of the greatest 'clods of earth' who helped us transition from one century to the next. Still, as the name he chose to pen this cycle under, "Gruda" evokes both the virtue of humility and the admonition from Ash Wednesday: "remember, o man, that you are dust; unto dust you shall return."

That being said (whew, I was beginning to think I'd never get here!), there are three passages from "Gruda's" cycle in particular that struck me because of their relevance to the season of my life and/or their reference(s) to hope:

1) from the first part of "Meditation on Death" -- Thoughts on maturing, section 3, page 150:

"When we find ourselves at the shores of autumn, 
fear and love explode their contrary desires:
fear desiring the return to what was already in existence,
and still is-
love desiring the departure to the One
in whom existence finds all its future."

the shores of autumn: the mornings are growing cooler, and this summer of my life is nearly over, there will be others, God willing, but this one is ending. With this ending, I hope, comes a new beginning, too...but
fear and love explode in their contrary desires...: for all the calm that I have tried to cultivate in my heart during these quiet waiting days,  so much questioning and thinking goes on;  fear and love still war in my heart.
"Gruda's" meditation on death holds true for more than one kind of death. There is no doubt that the day I enter the convent, if this is God's will for me, I will die in some sense. To myself and to the world. And I will live again, my life hidden in God, the One in whom existence finds all its future.

+  +  +

2) from the fourth part of "Meditation on Death"-- Hope reaching beyond the limit, section 1, page 156:

"Hope rises in time
from all places subject to death-
hope is its counterweight.
The dying world unveils its life again
in hope."

I read in this passage another sense of death, this one more literal. Death and decay, sinfulness, all that threatens to separate us from God. But Hope is stronger than all. God has shown me this every day of my life.
Hope rises...
+  +  +

3) from the fourth part of "Meditation on Death"-- Hope reaching beyond the limit, section 5, page 158:

"And so I am inscribed in You
by hope,
outside You I cannot exist."

(This is my closing prayer, no further comment necessary.)

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