A Virtue for Fall
True story: When a five year old left the first day from kindergarten, he was crying because he didn’t want it to be over! Imagine the fully permeating sense of delight he had felt throughout each moment of that day.
Might delighting in something actually be a virtue? If virtue is a habitual practice for the good, surely such practices as delighting in a child, delighting in new learning, delighting in God’s creation are attitudinal practices inspired by grace. Because the world is “charged with the grandeur of God” and its grandeur can be seen flaming out from its “dearest freshness” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.). Recognizing God’s permeating presence does give rise to awe. Can we see the marvelous essence of things? Have you ever made poetry out of prose? Cultivating attentive observing, active listening, and deep awareness will contribute to a sense of awe and wonder, humility and gratitude.
Let us delight in the tiniest growth of something planted. Let us express delight in the slightest change for the better in someone; always a cause for rejoicing. Delight involves noticing nuances, which calls for at least a moment’s pause. Scientists and poets practice deep observation.
Poets articulate objects and experiences, sights and sounds in ways calling for delight.
Gold ranks of temples flank the dazzled street.
It is a light of maples . . .
A showered fire . . . redeems the air. Where friends in passing meet,
They parley in the tongues of Pentecost. (October Maples: Portland)
There is a kind of sunlight, in early autumn, at sundown
That raises cloud reflections
Inches above the pond water
That sends us packing into the chill. (Ancient of Days)
Whatever the subject, the morning sun glimmers it. (This World)
At first they were just clouds, like any other.
Then they swelled and swirled . . .
Then they broke open. . . (Clouds)
The poet sums up the metamorphoses of the clouds as “Just one of the common miracles, a transformation.” “Whatever the eye makes out [should] be sent to the heart!” (Charles Wright). Delight reshapes our heart. Delight contours a transformation in us.
Virtue is from Latin meaning strong, courageous. It is a personal quality and consistent practice that molds our integrity for the (greater) good. Virtue isn’t work. Religion isn’t dour. Becoming holy isn’t deprivation. It’s utter delight, and even uttering delight, in your soul and on your lips. The more we deepen the practice of delight as a habitual practice deriving from an openness to awe and wonder, the more we increase our capacity for delighting in God. Delight in the Lord and all your desires will be fulfilled.
The Word of Delight
Creative Word of God,
Who played in the world
as its materializing evolved,
To dwell in Your House,
is our delight.
Poets in order: Richard Wilbur, Charles Wright , Poet Laureate, (www.usatoday.com/story/news/); Mary Oliver.
Reflections with Sister Helen Jean.