Friday, November 16, 2012


The days are short and I have taken to my usual wintry practice of creeping about the streets toward dusk. This time of year a marginal quiet descends, the colors are sharp, and the air, even in L.A., has a bite. Already, along Sunset Junction, you can smell holiday smells: the rich fragrance of roasting meat, sumptuous cheeses, spices, hot cider, good leather, roasting coffee, fresh bread...

But I never stay in Sunset Junction for long. Consumed by "nostalgia for the infinite," I walk through and keep going, drawn by abandoned lots, scruffy patches of sidewalk, deserted alleys, the people with shopping carts rooting through Dumpsters...

Day is done, but love unfailing
Dwells ever here;
Shadows fall, but hope, prevailing,
Calms every fear.
Loving Father, none forsaking,
Take our hearts, of Love’s own making,
Watch our sleeping, guard our waking,
Be always near.

Dark descends, but Light unending
Shines through our night;
You are with us, ever lending
New strength to sight;
One in love, your truth confessing,
One in hope of heaven’s blessings,
May we see, in love’s possessing,
Love’s endless light!

Eyes will close, but you, unsleeping,
Watch by our side;
Death may come: in Love’s safe keeping
Still we abide.
God of love, all evil quelling,
Sin forgiving, fear dispelling,
Stay with us, our hearts indwelling,
This eventide.

Richard Carney of Claremorris, Co. Mayo Ireland singis this beautiful Welsh hymn.


  1. Hi Heather,

    Where did you hear the phrase, "nostalgia for the infinite"? Several of my friends joined a Peruvian society for apostolic life founded by Luis Fernando Figari, who wrote a book called, "Longing for Infinity" - in the original Spanish, Nostalgia de Infinito. I'd never heard that phrase anywhere else...

  2. A lovely hymn well sung. I know the tune but not the lyrics. It reminded me of a song called "Lullabye in Jesus Name" by Nancy Honeytree. You can find it here. Sorry, I couldn't find a free one. It starts out:

    Day is done

    Gone the sun

    But we need not fear

    Darkness comes

    That we may see the stars

    And know that God is near.

    I hope you like it.

  3. That is a lovely hymn, even if one "merely" reads it as verse! The shorter lines amid the longer, and the triple rhymes! (Forgive me: it's a poetry-enthusiast's disease, to notice these matters.) And the fact that it's Welsh! That just adds to its glory.

    Of course, it is somewhat familiar as the Compline hymn in Magnificat this month! But the middle stanza is new to me, and I am most grateful.

    But yes, I can testify to the fact that Los Angeles air at night can have a bite, even as early as September! I was at the Hollywood Bowl with a friend one September evening in 1988, and my thin jacket was somewhat inadequate. And I do like me some cool temperatures.

  4. Welp I see Giorgio de Chirico has a 1911 painting, of a bell tower, called "Nostalgia OF the Infinite"...I think Fr. Peter Cameron used the phrase in his keynote address at the Magnificat Day of Faith. I'm sure he attributed it except now I can't remember to whom...I'm pretty sure I'd heard it before...apparently then Cardinal Ratzinger, in 1996, observed, "In man there is a nostalgic hope for the infinite that cannot be extinguished." Here's the link to an essay on it:

    Chip, that is lovely, "Lullaby in Jesus' Name," and thank you, Tom, as well. I remember singing "Day is Done" at the end of Evening Prayer in a chapel in a W. Virginia holler with Sr. Jeanne McNulty, third order Franciscan...just the two of us, a capella, and the crickets...

  5. I am also in the habit of taking an evening walk. Being that I am in Northern Michigan I am bundled from head to toe, hoping the snow clouds will hold back "for just an hour more, God!" I walk right on through the strip of little shops, each with their own little display of winter attire, packages of homemade jams, fur hats, and jewelry. I walk on by, headed in the direction of the darkness where I find the sidewalks broken, thorns reaching out toward me from behind their fences, and trees casting eerie shadows upon my footpath. I have never quite been able to put words to my preference of darkness rather than the jolly streets lit with Christmas lights and gentle music. I sometimes laugh that it's because I am an Enneagram Type Four (with a 5 wing), but it wasn't until you said "nostalgia for the infinite" that I really understood why I find the town's gleefully festive displays so disposable. They're not infinite - while the brokenness, darkness, and haunting aspects of nature are! Charlevoix doesn't have a homeless population to speak of, otherwise I am sure I would be drawn to their dumpster diving neighborhoods as well.

  6. I'd forgotten, and this post and conversation remind me, that there are lyrics to "Taps;" it is not solely a trumpet call. We sang the first verse at the end of every Girl Scout meeting (a million years ago):

    Day is done, gone the sun,
    From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
    All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

    Fading light, dims the sight,
    And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
    From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

    Thanks and praise, for our days,
    'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, neath the sky;
    As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

    Sun has set, shadows come,
    Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
    Always true to the promise that they made.

    While the light fades from sight,
    And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
    To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

  7. Dear Heather,
    nostalgia of the infinite
    puts me in mind of other phrases I have loved, such as

    'a beautiful obsession', and similarly,
    'magnificent obsession' (but in the context of a passion directed at the Divine Lover not a human one as in the book and films of the same name), and
    'a feather on the breath of God'.

    The last one comes from St. Hildegard of Bigen (sadly, just yesterday I accidentally laundered my copy of 'Penguin Classics Selected Writings of Hildegard Bigen)

    As an aside, I happened to see the post come in last night on my rss as I closing the computer and missed an essential word in the title, that being "Day" thus I read what I thought I saw in my in-box, "Shirt of Flame: Is Done." I nearly didn't sleep.

  8. Thanks for the info and link to Ratzinger's essay - it all sounds very similar to what I remember of the Sodalit spirituality: starting with the experience of our deepest longings.

    Hm, now I'm wondering whether Giorgio de Chirico might've inspired Javier Rodriguez, an artist and member of the same society who created an exhibit of paintings and sculptures entitled, "Nostalgia de Infinito" - he gave my group a personal tour when we were visiting one of their communities.

    I don't know much about art, hardly know where to begin making comparisons, but there seems to be an uncanny resemblance in their dreamy surrealist style (which I just picked up from wikipedia). Plus the same title and the central use of a tower with a flag in Rodriguez' exhibit.

    Strange serendipity #2: I flipped open a book of poems by John Wheelock last night and read this:

    Close to the highest, loneliest face of heaven
    The flaming candles of the stars are pressed,

    Now are you tired because the day is done,
    And twilight heaves more softly in your breast,
    Grown weary of the sun.
    The eyelids of the world droop full and drowsy,
    But the irradiate eyes shine far above her,

    The tumult and the ancient struggles cease;
    The wars that Beauty wages on her lover

    Dwindle into a peace.
    Stretch out your arms along the surging twilight.
    Lean back your head and sigh along the Deep; Here on the misty marge of life and death
    There is no turmoil. Silence falls asleep
    Between your breath and breath.

    The helplessness of sleep fills me with pity,
    Even more than death, more lovable, more dear.

    What care have you for all things passed and done,
    Mournful or glad! Here in the twilight here

    They vanish and are gone.
    All passionate things and all things great and joyous,
    Even they, too, must tire and fade away,

    Even the heart grows dumb and cannot weep—
    But leaning on the ebbed and fallen day

    Sleeps, and is glad of sleep.
    For in the end all things are grave and holy,
    And Love, whose thought was laughter and no other,
    Above her lips with tears and kisses glad
    Shine out the eyes of the undaunted mother,
    Prophetical and sad.

    And synch #3: That movie about the teenage vampires just came out. Startin' to feel like the Twilight Zone around here.


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