Remembering, the poet Wendell Berry reminds us, is a task central to this season of preparation. Advent is about preparing the way of the Lord, and one of the ways to do that is to remember – to remember that God’s son was born among us, in a real place, at a specific moment in history. We remember this as we go about our daily tasks. For Berry, that means tending to his farm. For us, it may mean something else altogether. But as we go about our day, and remember that first holy night, our day is transfigured, becoming holy as well. Each and every day we walk on this earth, we tread on the same humble planet on which it happened once, the birth of God’s son. We remember, and as we do, we “stand with one hand on the door, / Looking into another world / That is this world.” A beautiful picture for us of this Advent season of preparation.

Remembering that it happened once | Wendell Berry

Remembering that it happened once, 
We cannot turn away the thought, 
As we go out, cold, to our barns 
Toward the long night’s end, that we 
Ourselves are living in the world 
It happened in when it first happened, 
That we ourselves, opening a stall 
(A latch thrown open countless times 
Before), might find them breathing there, 
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw, 
The mother kneeling over Him, 
The husband standing in belief 
He scarcely can believe, in light 
That lights them from no source we see, 
An April morning’s light, the air 
Around them joyful as a choir. 
We stand with one hand on the door, 
Looking into another world 
That is this world, the pale daylight 
Coming just as before, our chores 
To do, the cattle all awake, 
Our own white frozen breath hanging 
In front of us; and we are here 
As we have never been before, 
Sighted as not before, our place 
Holy, although we knew it not.

I first encountered this poem in a collection of Wendell Berry’s Sabbath Poems, “This Day: Sabbath Poems Collected & New, 1979-2013,” published by Counterpoint Press, which can be found here.

6 thoughts on “Remembering that it happened once | Wendell Berry (Sabbath Poems 1987:VI)

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