I’ve wanted for a long time to write a series of reflections on the poetry of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Nelly Sachs. That will have to wait for another time, but this week’s poem comes from a sequence of hers called “In the Habitations of Death”, where imagery of death, dust, longing and encountering God coalesce. Sachs battled the long-term effects of trauma for much of her life and did not to my knowledge find the fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus. But there’s much power and vividness in how she describes the meeting point between human helplessness and the work of God. This particular poem, with its allusions to God digging into the dust to make Adam and then digging into Adam to make Eve, is especially evocative for me.
The artwork of German artist Anselm Kiefer has had similar imaginative power over me for many years, and his piece entitled Aschenblume (Ash Flowers) is also a poignant work for Lent and our reflections on God working in the midst of our dust. Likewise, Scottish composer James MacMillan, whose work moves regularly between dissonance and purity, captures well the reading for the fifth Sunday of Lent: the weeping Jesus calling Lazarus from the tomb. Let’s remember how Jesus meets us in our weeping and our dust and find mercy in Him.