Yesterday afternoon I received a wonderful gift: in my courtyard came a robin … in February! Although it is still winter, the robin’s song gave me hope for longer days, warmer weather, budding trees, and the sweet smell of spring.
As I listened to the lilt, I was reminded of another springtime when I traveled to Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument. While strolling its pebbled trails, where a mere few centuries ago Roman Catholic Priests and American Indians formed a history of their own, I found a marker that includes an excerpt from a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi composed sometime around 1220.
Sermon to the Birds
“My dear sisters, birds of the sky, be grateful to God your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise Him. He has given you the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God gives you the most delicious morsels, rivers and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys for refuge, trees to build your nests, and beautiful clothing, a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were well looked after in the Ark of Noah. Clearly, our Creator loves you. His gifts flow in abundance; so please be careful of the sin of thanklessness, and always sing out your praises for the Lord, our God!” (paraphrased)
Listen to the Sound of Spring!
The Sermon by St. Francis and the song of the bird are reminders of God’s goodness. I am grateful for another gift too: the opportunity to listen an interpretative song of a prayer by Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Sioux, 1863 — 1950 (CLICK HERE to listen: push the arrow at the bottom of that page).
“Hear me, four quarters of the world — a relative I am!
Give me the strength to walk the soft earth.
Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.
With your power only can I face the winds.
Great Spirit … all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike.
With tenderness have these come up out of the ground.
Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms,
That they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.
This is my prayer, hear me!” (John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks)
Black Elk and St. Francis of Assisi lived centuries apart in diverse societies, yet both understood the power of creation. Their words attest the importance of giving credit to the source. Likewise, the contemplative soul recognizes the essence and necessity of embracing a thankful heart.
“Always sing out your praises for the Lord, our God!”
“With your power only can I face the winds.”
Longer days, warmer weather … or the chill of a wintery blast, whatever the season brings, I pray you will “face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.”
I am thankful for the wind and the quiet … and the robins that sing in my trees.
What are you thankful for?