philosophy

Postcards From Happiness: Reading In Bed

by Howard Hain

Sometimes in the middle of dinner I find myself smiling. I love to watch her prepare her plate; her little way of doing everything. Other times it’s when she’s cooking one of her little meals or carefully packing her bag for the day. Then there’s bedtime. I check the locks on the front and porch doors and then check the dials on the stove. I flick off the kitchen light and on my way up the stairs I shut the switch for the chandelier in the dining room turned work room. At the top of the stairs I see across the large box-shaped sparsely-furnished hallway into our bedroom. Usually my reading lamp is the only light. And there on the right side of the bed, her pillow seeming not to notice the weight of her delicate head, lies my little Laurie.

She smiles while she sleeps, and there’ve been many a night I’ve left the lamp on, pretending to read; turning toward the middle of the bed and holding the book up high in order that the light fully illuminate the page. My eyes don’t read the well-lit words but the goodness in Laurie’s face. If she wakes, her smile brightens as she adjusts to her own image reflecting in my eyes. She’ll actually purr and move her little body closer to mine, sliding her right arm into the crevasse between my left side and the warm cotton sheet, shutting her eyes as undisturbed as they opened.


 

(2002-2003)

Standard
philosophy

Untitled

by Howard Hain

 

Tender caresses

Tender thoughts

Harsh realities

Christ is real

Seek first the Kingdom of God

Sigh

Breathe

Smile

Pause

Just don’t move

Don’t feel guilt

Nor any shame

Be still

The world hates you

It lies to you

It tells you that you have to do something

Something!

Anything!

But you can’t just sit there

That’s what it tells you

But it’s a lie

Yes

Yes you can

You can just sit there

The Kingdom is at hand

Your right hand

And your left

Both your feet

Your head

Even your behind

Heaven is all around you

Please stop moving

Please

I love you

I love you, my dear child

You are so precious to me

Let me look at you

Let me surround you with my thoughts

With my arms

With my love

Let me love you

Please sit still

Please

My child

Let me look at you

You have no idea

How it pleases me


 

(2016)

Standard
philosophy

Wise as Doves

by Howard Hain


rembrandt-angel-appearing-to-the-shepherds-1634

Rembrandt, “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds”, 1634


Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

—Luke 2:8-9


Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.

Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!

Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.

But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it. If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord chose them to be present when He revealed His glory.

It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us just the kind of people to whom God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.

A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter to whom the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.

If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.

For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets—even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.


The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”

—Luke, Chapter 2:10,16-18,20


 

Standard
philosophy

Merry Christmas

20171225_083206


The softest sound that could ever be.

The slightest touch possible.

The simplest gesture known to God and man.

Humility.

Nothing more powerful.

The Word became flesh.

God became man.

God became you and me.

Now the child leads us:

 

Merry Christmas.

A Blessed New Year.


 

—Howard and family

 

Standard
philosophy

Home Sick

by Howard Hain

I wonder. Did God ever catch a cold?

Did Mary look at Him while He slept, watching carefully His chest rise and fall?

Did Joseph pace around their small home, looking upward, his right hand touching his brow?

I wonder. Did they wince in sync when Jesus coughed from the bottom of His soul?

Was there a day, a single hour, from the moment Jesus was conceived that Joseph and Mary weren’t concerned?

Concerning all this there’s not much to wonder.

Jesus is human.

Of course He experienced “cold” in all its forms.

Of course Joseph and Mary felt they’d rather die than see their child in pain.

And Jesus is divine.

Of course He was homesick.

Of course He longed to return.

Between Mary’s womb and heaven the desert is awfully dry.

He climbed up high, seeking out mountain views.

He returned to the sea, seeking out salt air.

He stopped to hang out with the little ones, seeking out angels.

Jesus is just like you and me.

Only He allows Himself to be loved.

And that led Him to love to the utter extreme.

All flowed from and toward a family reunion.

His pain, His grief, His hope, His love were perfectly ordered.

Even when He coughed or sneezed or tossed and turned, Jesus did so while in the company of a promise.

And He’s extremely contagious.

Joseph and Mary became homesick too.

There’s only one place they could want to be.

With their only child.

Clinging to Him, to their God with all their might.


 

Standard
philosophy

Communion with Saints

by Howard Hain

 

A man named Paul lives in my home.

He’s an excellent house guest.

He never imposes.

He’s never and always alone.

My daughter and I talk of him often.

He brings wisdom to our kitchen table.

I’m not exactly sure when he moved in.

But it wasn’t so long ago.

Before and with him there are others.

Theresa, Francis, Bruno, John…just to name a few.

But Paul for some reason never seems to leave.

The others, they kind of come and go.

Paul on the other hand always hangs around.

But then again, I could say the same about the rest.

Is it cliché to say it’s a mystery?


 

Standard
philosophy

Mary’s Mother

by Howard Hain
durer.jpg

Albrecht Durer, “Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, ca. 1519 (The Met)


Christmas is a time for grandmothers.

They bake and cook and decorate. Their homes become mini North Poles, diplomatic outposts of Santa’s Castle.

At its core, Christmas is of course all about Jesus. All about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. All about the Holy Family.

The Holy Family is an extended family though. And it doesn’t stop at grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, or even cousins and distant cousins.

Just ask Saints Joachim and Anne, Zechariah and Elizabeth, or John the Baptist—not to mention all the unknown relatives whom the child Jesus surely encountered throughout His Galilean days. Ask any one of them about the far-reaching ripple effects of family grace.

Those touched by Jesus have a tendency to appear bigger than life.

Look at Santa Claus.

Most of us are aware that he is really Saint Nick.

But do we stop to wonder who Mrs. Claus really is?

I think she’s Saint Anne.

After all, Mrs. Claus is seen as everyone’s grandmother, especially when it comes to holiday cheer. But when it comes to truly celebrating the birth of Jesus, it is through Saint Anne that we approach the gates of Christ’s Nativity.

Mary’s Mother holds a special key. She is first among grandmas, first among those who pinch chubby cheeks, who pass along one more extra sugary treat.

———

Saint Anne help us. Speak to us. Show us how to be grand parents to all those around us, especially the little ones. Stir up the spirit of Advent. Bake away the holiday blues. Cook up a dish of Christmas love that only your hearth can serve.

———

Come one, come all, to the home of Saint Anne. Come with me to Grandma’s house for a holiday visit. Taste and see. Enter her kitchen, where the hot chocolate can always fit a little more whipped cream, where you hear the constant refrain: “eat…eat…eat…”

At Grandma’s your plate is never empty.

Her table is continually set.

She always sees Jesus as having just been born.

She is always wrapping Him up tightly in swaddling clothes.

It is simply grand.

To Grandma, Jesus is always an innocent child.

And she can’t help but see Him deep within both you and me.


 

Howard Hain is a contemplative layman, husband, and father.


Web Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Albrecht Durer, “Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”, ca. 1519

 

Standard