Good Zeal

Writing from the Heart

Gold in Your Memories book with pen and paperI have discovered that the best form of prayer for me is to write from the heart. With paper and pen, immersed in the beauty of nature, I continue to be amazed at God’s revelation to me as the holy words begin to float across the page. My favorite form of writing is poetry and haiku. This was not my favorite literary form of writing as a high school student. I can remember when being directed to write a poem or haiku, I would just cringe. Getting the structure and rhyme mechanics just right consumed too much of my energy. I would like to think that if my teachers told me “just to write from the heart” maybe I would have had a better appreciation for it.

The haiku is a short Japanese poem, composed of three lines. The first and third line have five syllables, the second line has seven syllables. Tom Lowenstein, in his book Haiku Inspirations, sees haikus as “poems to appreciate in their own right.” They reveal a hidden essence and offer inspiration. (Haiku Inspirations, Chartwell Books, Inc. 2013)

Many years ago, I came across the book Gold in Your Memories by one of my favorite spiritual writers, Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB. Sister Macrina describes the haiku as a work of art:
Take one particular event and try to get it into focus. Put a frame around this experience as though it were a piece of art. The Divine Artist is standing nearby trying to help you reverence the shades and colors of your life. As the curtain is drawn up on one of your life’s memories, be prayerfully present at the scene. Just receive it without any judgment about it.
Gold in your Memories (Ave Maria Press, 1998, pg.27-28)

After reading Sister Macrina’s description of haiku writing as a work of art, I immediately took on haiku writing as a prayer ritual. It became apparent to me that I must let God do the work and that I don’t have to work so hard at it. Here are a couple of Macrina’s haikus from the above book:
A tiny gold leaf
offers a silent sermon
from a barren branch.

My first memory of snow
Oh so much sugar, I thought
falling from heaven.

After reading these two haikus, I suddenly got it! I began writing haikus as a response to my daily meditation. With pen in hand, in the presence of a lit candle or sitting outside on a bench surrounded by magnificent trees and listening to bird song, I let God use my pen to manifest the sacred encounter within me. Here are a few haikus that I have written over the years:
In night time silence,
gazing at the Living Flame,
Presence surrounds me.

Mary and Martha
lovers of the Divine Guest,
both prayer and action.

Stand up, awaken
behold God’s amazing sight
nothing else matters.

I go forth to work
with you as my center point
to spread your embrace.

This night of silence
draws me into blissful peace,
God’s Holy Embrace.

If my high school teacher would have told me to go sit under a tree and write whatever flowed from within my heart, maybe I would have written the following haiku:

Holy Tree of Life
Illuminated Beauty
Surround me in Love.

By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB

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