As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!
Oliver Wendell Holmes
This morning I awakened to thoughts of the chambered nautilus. More specifically, the last stanza of Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem "The Chambered Nautilus" was foremost in my mind, thanks to Mrs. Cheeseman, my fourth-grade teacher who insisted that we memorize those immortal words above.
The chambered nautilus is a sea creature that lives in a shell shaped like a horn. As the nautilus increases in size, it creates new and larger chambers to inhabit, "more stately mansions" to accommodate its ongoing growth. Over its life span of 15 to 20 years, it builds approximately 30 rooms, each one "nobler than the last". Moving forward in spiral-fashion from chamber to chamber, the nautilus completely seals off each vacated one, which no longer serves its needs – "leave thy low-vaulted past!" Finally it completes its life span and leaves the imprisonment of its earthly home – "till thou at length art free!" After an open-ended life of perpetual evolution and change, the nautilus abandons its "outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea."
"In my Father's house, there are many mansions," our Lord Jesus tells us (Jn 14:2). As the swift seasons of my life roll, He is always inviting me to leave behind the past and move into the future. However, like the chambered nautilus that dwells only and totally in its current chamber, which perfectly accommodates it, I must live in the present moment, where the adorable will of God abides. "The will of God has only delights, favors and riches for all souls who are obedient to it," Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes in his time-honored classic Abandonment to Divine Providence. "We cannot trust it too much or abandon ourselves to it too completely." In the present moment, I find all that I could possibly need or want because HE is there.
Again I turn to de Caussade. "The present moment is always overflowing with immeasurable riches, far more than you are able to hold. Your faith will measure it out to you: as you believe, so you will receive.... Every moment the will of God is stretched out before us like a vast ocean which the desires of our hearts can never empty, but more and more of it will be ours as our souls grow in faith, in trust and in love.... The will of God alone can satisfy us."
O my soul! Today, through the grace of God, I will happily dwell in the stately mansion of the present moment yet I will gladly leave it behind for a new temple whenever my Lord beckons.