We find ourselves almost halfway through the season of Lent as we gradually and most assuredly move toward Easter. Sadly, as I write there are not many things we can be sure about as the horror of war grows even more horrific for so many in Ukraine. I turn to the work of the poet Malcolm Guite and his book The Word in the Wilderness – A Poem a Day for Lent and Easter. I am a lover of maps and have collected so many over the years, many of them the United Kingdom Ordnance Survey maps which once upon a time was the best we had to guide our walks and hikes! Today, I am confident there are many who have never held a map in their hands, no need to, as the smart phone has it all! A good few years ago driving from Heathrow airport to Kent my google map failed me as I tried to drive around Clapham Common, south London. Stopping to ask for directions, one friendly person pointed us in the correct direction and also offered us her “SATNAV” which she said we could mail to her when we were done! Such kindness, however we declined, but with verbal directions we completed the journey! Guite uses a poem by Holly Ordway entitled Maps and comments – “This beautiful blank sonnet takes us on a journey through history, embodied in three maps, and then brings us abruptly to ourselves in the present, with an implicit word of challenge. Read this poem carefully and ponder all the meanings. Guite continues ” ‘The map is not the reality’, as the old Zen Masters used to say. We can get lost in our representations, we can mistake the image for the real thing; sometimes we just have to look up and be where we are in order to see where that is. This certainly applies to our Christian pilgrimage.” Ponder this poem with prayer.
Antique maps, with curlicues of ink
As borders, framing what we know, like pages
From a book of travelers’ tales: look,
Here in the margin, tiny ships at sail.
No-nonsense maps from family trips: each state
Traced out in color-coded numbered highways,
A web of roads with labeled city-dots
Punctuating the route and its slow stories.
Now GPS puts me right at the centre,
A Ptolemaic shift in my perspective.
Pinned where I am, right now, somewhere, I turn
And turn to orient myself. I have
Directions calculated, maps at hand:
Hopelessly lost till I look up at last.
I feel lost even though
My direction is muddled
by so many distractions,
so many feelings of dismay.
I pray for those
who struggle in the midst
of horrific war, so afraid, yet
with courage and hope they
travel without maps
meaning and purpose in a world
shattering around them.
Help me in this season of Lent
to look not to myself
but to look up to you, O Lord,
Hear my prayer and may the actions
of the best of my sisters and brothers
offer hope, healing and welcome
to those who are the victims of the cruelty,
grief, and meaninglessness of war. Amen.