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.