Many of Rilke’s poems carry a passionate, active tone – as if the poet is ready to go striding out, full of energy and assurance that there is work to be done, but there are also poems of great tenderness that reflect the gelassenheit of the Divine presence. In the words of one of my favorite teachers, we need to be centered in “action and contemplation.”
“ich liebe dich, du sanftestes Gesetz”
I love you, gentlest of Ways,
Who ripened in us as we wrestled with you.
You, the great homesickness we could never shake off,
you, the forest that always surrounds us.
you, the song we sang in every silence,
you the dark net threading through us,
on the day you made us you created yourself,
and we grew sturdy in your sunlight…
Let your hand rest on the rim of heaven now
and mutely bear the darkness we bring over you.
For me, this poem is a reminder of the gentle presence of God in every thing and in every one of us – not in the showy conversions, or the dramatic actions – but in our humble existence. God is in the death and Resurrection, but also in our silent longings, whispered murmurings, and quiet aging. God is in the light we shine and the darkness we bring. Maybe we don’t need a burning bush, or an empty tomb to be converted. Maybe it is enough for us to breath in a forest, to sing in silence, to sit in the sunshine and let things be as God does. Maybe that is doing the work of God too.