Thank you, John Patrick Shanley

I find inspiration in many unlikely places. This morning on Facebook there was a quote by the playwright John Patrick Shanley. It was posted by an actress who is deeply committed to teaching theater in New York. I met her this year at a reading: she brought a wonderful short, short story and I read some passages from my new book, Elijah & the SAT. I smiled when I saw that the quote was from Shanley because my daughter has been assigned one of his scenes for her acting class. I’ve been trying to track down an old copy of Moonstruck all week so she can see how his gift of language plays out in a larger work.

I don’t know if it was his intention but Shanley has, in this short verse, captured the essence of Advent. In theological lingo, we would say it is a conversational way of delineating the blessing of repentance. Repentance or, turning your back on old ways, is part of the gift of Advent. We will ourselves to let go of the dark things that cling to prepare out hearts for a new joy to come, the joy of Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” This is an idea that has deep roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition. For many, the beauty of repentance has been ruined by too many extremists using all the wrong words, in the wrong tone and spirit, to communicate about the love of God that comes to us in Jesus. But just as the wrong words can close the door, the right ones, fresh ones, inspired ones, can open it again.

Thank you, JP Shanley, for these wise words:

“Run the old stuff down, run it out, toss the weight of trash in your heart into the fire. December is the ruthless month. Pick up all your heartbreak and fling it out the window. Call everybody. Make peace and move on. Let those who wish to linger, let them linger and grieve. They will run and catch up to you if you move on. You are the leader when it comes to joy. Move forward towards joy.”

Preparing for joy,

2 Comments on “Thank you, John Patrick Shanley

  1. Thanks, Heather. This Shanley quote was helpful, as well as your gloss on it, “the blessing of repentance”–two realities so rarely (to our loss!) connected in people’s minds.

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