Religion, and the spirituality that keeps it fresh, holds the power to transform our lives.  Take Holy Week, for example.  Holy week is an ancient practice of soul-care.  It is, at its core, a mapping of the human journey—from our grand entrance, through ups and downs of our lives, into suffering, death, and final transformation.  Holy Week aims to teach us to walk our journey with courage and hope, no matter what may come our way.  Holy Week is a crash course in being human, and being human well. 

I don’t know where else we can go to school ourselves in what it means to live well.  There are, of course, classes and books and teachers—many of them quite good and helpful.  But over the course of my life and ministry, I’ve come to more fully appreciate this ancient practice as some of the best soul-care available, some of the best teaching on living and dying well that we can find anywhere.  What’s more, it’s an annual ritual that we do together.  Over and over, in the course of a life, we come to this annual renewal of our understanding and practice of what it takes to live well.

So I write to invite you into Holy Week.  I invite you into all of it, all eight days.  Here’s a little map for your journey:

AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman

Most of us avoid the descent into our inner lives because we fear we'll meet more darkness there than light.  And often we do.  It's easier to stay outside, on the surface of things, and ignore the depths.  Some of us have no guide for the inner journey toward healing and wholeness.  

Rainer Maria Rilke is one of the modern world's most insightful, spiritually-grounded, and beloved poets.  I love the way he bridges the two worlds, inner and outer, sacred and secular, and always invites me into the depth of soul I need in order to come more fully alive.   

He gives me courage to enter the labyrinth of the soul.  

His poetic vision is a helpful partner to anyone who wants to integrate their lives more fully.

Here's a sonnet that invites us into the courage it takes to enter our inner lives and face the pain and suffering we'd rather avoid.  

It's a poetic exploration of the themes Dr. Donald Kalsched, the eminent psychoanalyst, explores in his work on trauma, how suffering blocks our life energy, and what it takes for the soul to emerge into the fullness of life.  

Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows have a wonderful translation of this sonnet, as does Robert Bly, and Robert Hunter.  I've lived with Rilke for awhile and with the ways this poem guides not only my own inner journey but also my healing work with others.  And so, I've rendered it myself.  It's impossible to take a poem over from the German into English without allowing the language to dance in new ways.  This rendering is true to the spiritual vision of the great poet, attempts to offer some sense of the lyricism of the German, while drawing it through my own soul's experience and into our new setting.   


Sonnets to Orpheus, No 9

Rainer Maria Rilke, translated/rendered by Chris Neufeld-Erdman


Only you, who dare to lift the lyre

inside the inner labyrinth and maze,

will find the pathway back into the light

of endless gratefulness and praise.


Only you, who on death's bitter flowers

have slept and fed,

will sing a living song

to what was given up for dead.


What shimmers on the pane between the worlds

will quickly slip away;

internalize what you behold.


When born of these two realms

our words and ways

become more valuable than gold.



AuthorChris Neufeld-Erdman