“Rise, and be beautiful,” I say to the mass of dough which I knead and flour and knead and caress with fingers and palms and knead and flour again.
Working simple ingredients into bread dough is my first conscious act of the day, before dawn, before my steamy mug of coffee, before Morning Prayer.
The dough comes alive, emerging, a living thing. Bread is a living thing, and beautiful in so many ways.
“Rise, and be beautiful,” I say to the sleepy world as I step out my door.
To the east I detect the first hint of dawn. I stand beneath the eave as I pray my intercessions. And I think of the world in all its freshness, bursting with possibility. Earth and all creation in endless cycles of birthing and growing and living and dying.
I say to the sun, “Rise, and be beautiful,” now as dawn emerges and rain falls with great intensity.
I think of last autumn’s foliage, well wintered in my yard, now turning to slime as I wait for these rivers of rain to pass.
Rise, rise, rise, and be beautiful.
From my porch I think too of the world’s anguish. The many forms of anguish that should not be, born of injustice and neglect and abandonment of every sort, deforming and diminishing what was created for loveliness and the flourishing of life.
This morning I lift up all that is crushed and tossed away, deprived of its innate potential.
“The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness,” the Psalmist sings, “the world and all its peoples.”
It’s this world I have in mind as I pray, “Rise, and be beautiful.” I yearn to urge it into a place of promise.
The rain eases. To the west I see clouds grow thin, gauzy. The morning star emerges in the fresh-washed sky. Overhead I hear swallows swooping in search of breakfast.
I need—I mean I deeply, deeply need—the beauty of this spring. I yearn for beauty to free me of the mean-spiritedness and fear and division, free of the spirit of unsettledness and confusion that marks these times.
I need the beauty of my favorite plum tree to minister to my soul. I need the beauty of my neighbor’s lilac blooms cascading in fragrant clusters over the fence.
I need the beauty of birds busy in the nesting season, Mother and Father Towhee who hide in the lavender bush, the community of golden crown sparrows who perch in the hedge of mock orange and wild roses.
“In the end we will be saved by beauty,” writes Dorothy Day, quoting a line from Dostoevsky.
I want to be saved now.
I think of a long lanky poem of Robert Lax, in which the poet’s soul becomes lost in “the beauty of the sky, the beauty of the sky.”
Ponder it, I tell myself. The sky. And the beauty of the sky.
I have read that in some parts of the world, some parts of China, say—China, whose people work so hard to produce so much of the goods we consume—cannot offer its people the beauty of the sky. The air is so befouled that children play indoors. The toxic stew that passes for air invades their lungs, enters the blood, the bones.
Rise, I want to say to them. Rise, too, to the geese and fish and frogs dying in toxic ponds. Rise, I want to say to Indigenous people in remote villages, hemmed in on reservations, robbed of ancestral lands as earth-movers rumble in, forests and mountains stripped away, water sources poisoned with chemicals.
“All creation rightly gives You praise,” I proclaim at sunrise. Through the screen door I catch the warm fragrance of bread baking.
I want all creation to rightly praise the Creator. I want that kind of world.
Rise, I say, rise, and be beautiful.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.