According to legend, Jacopone da Todi was attending a wedding when a balcony collapsed, mortally wounding his wife. In his grief, da Todi abandoned a promising legal career, gave away everything he owned and started traveling the countryside as a spiritual wanderer. It was a journey that would eventually land him in prison.
Whether the story about the death of da Todi’s wife is true or not, we know that something triggered his sudden conversion and motivated him to join the Franciscan monastic order. As a Franciscan, he discovered his gift for poetry, and became the leader of a group of Franciscans who embraced the notion of radical poverty.
But da Todi ended up on the wrong side of papal politics and spent five years in prison for opposing the election of Pope Boniface VIII. During his time in prison, he wrote poems about his personal encounters with divine love.
For today’s inspiration, we’re looking at a piece that speaks the essence of da Todi’s spiritual experiences. It’s a poem titled, “As Air Carries Light Poured Out by the Rising Sun.”
AS AIR CARRIES LIGHT POURED OUT BY THE RISING SUN
By Jacapone da Todi
As air carries light poured out by the rising sun,
As the candle spills away beneath the flame’s touch,
So too does the soul melt when ignited by light,
its will now gone.
Lost within this light,
the soul, dying to itself, in majesty lives on.
Why fish among the waves for wine
Spilled into the sea?
It has become the ocean.
Can wine once mingled be drawn again from the water?
So it is with the soul drowned in light:
Love has drunk it in,
changed it, mixed it with truth,
until it is entirely new.
The soul is willing and yet unwilling,
For there is nothing the soul now seeks,
save for this beauty!
No longer does it hunger or grasp,
so emptied by such sweetness.
This supreme summit of the soul rises
from a nothingness shaped
and set within the Lord.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: Jacopone da Todi: The Lauds
More nuggets for today:
Today is the celebration of Maha Shivaratri in the Hindu tradition.
Maha Shivaratri is a major Hindu festival. It’s celebrated in honor of the god, Shiva, and recalls Shiva’s performance of the heavenly dance. During the festival, believers are encouraged to pray and meditate on honesty, non-violence, charity and other virtues. While some celebrants do their best to keep everyone awake all night, others mark the day with a visit to a nearby temple or on pilgrimage.
On this day in 1582, Pope Gregory XII introduced the Gregorian calendar, replacing the Julian calendar created by Caesar in 46 B.C.
The Julian calendar was seriously flawed — it calculated a year as 365 days and six hours. In reality it only takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds for the Earth to circle the sun.
The Gregorian calendar adjusted for the discrepancy. But to get time back on track, Gregory needed to skip several days. So, in 1582, the day following October 4 was October 15. Gregory also ordered that New Year’s Day be moved from April 1 to January 1.
Today is also the birthday of the American politician and civil rights leader, John Lewis, in 1940.
As a young boy, Lewis dreamed of being a preacher and he practiced by preaching to the chickens on his family’s farm. He would later graduate from American Baptist Theological Seminary and be ordained as a Baptist minister.
But Lewis is best known for his work in the civil rights arena. He was one of the “Big Six” leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington. He also led the first of three marches from Selma to Montgomery across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. During that march, Lewis and other protesters were beaten bloody by police.
He went on to serve 17 terms in the house of Representatives and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Lewis died of pancreatic cancer in July 2020. But just a few months earlier, on March 1, Lewis spoke at the Edmund Pettus bridge during a commemoration event for the first Selma march. In his speech, he again spoke the now famous line:
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
Finally, our word of wisdom for today come to us from the Thomas Aquinas. He said:
“The things that we love tell us what we are.”
I hope you find something — or someone — interesting to love today. And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.
“As Air Carries Light Poured Out by the Rising Sun” by Jacopone da Todi. Public domain.
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