Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Too Crowded Altar

Sometimes my altar becomes too crowded. The simplicity that I long for gets lost in precious clutter. Yes, it is all precious. Each object on my altar is a metaphor that cradles a meaning only I understand. However, metaphors are a bit like adjectives. If I use too many, what I am trying to express gets lost in the decorations. The simplicity that I yearn for gets crowded out with an abundance of symbols and the space I am trying to create becomes a distraction because it is too busy. My altar above is an example of what I am talking about. It began uncrowded on New Years Day with tones of simplicity. Somewhere along the way my preparation for God’s arrival became avoidance. The "stuff" on it became my god.

The tiny stone, the lit candle, the open bible, the significant card, the symbolic heart, the sea shell, and all the lovely things I gather to enhance my prayer, does not draw the Beloved any closer. In reality, my restless preparation often smothers the very truth for which I am searching. Thus I have learned that preparation can, at times, be avoidance; and elaborate arrangements can crowd out Vigilant Waiting. A single flower and a moment of waiting is all I need to meet the One Who Comes. And even that, may be one flower too many.

This is what I am trying to say
in my poem below.


My days are all spent
in decorating my house.
I am forever preparing
for your arrival.
I hunger for your presence
yet I take not the time
to wait for your coming
and to my great sorrow
you never arrive.

It is because I refuse
to be silent
that I cannot hear you.

It is because I refuse
to await you
that you cannot come.

It is because I refuse
to be idle
that I cannot enjoy you.

It is because I am too busy
hanging up decorations
that I cannot welcome you home.

Yet in your deep wisdom
your presence leans toward mine.
You understand my decorations
to be symbols of my hunger
and you know of the day
when my heart swept clean
will be the only decoration needed
and I will listen for your coming
like night awaiting day.

--Macrina, from Seasons of Your Heart


  1. Ah yes. A crowded altar. Why do we do that? Perhaps an EMPTY altar for Lent could become a living metaphor?

  2. I very much like your poem. Thank you.
    My altar, which is a window sill, is a bit too crowded, but since it is slightly off to my left and a ways from where I sit on my bed, I mainly look at the white wall when I pray or wish I would pray :-)