03 October 2015

Miriam: Let My Words Paint A Picture

Exodus 15:1-21

"Poetry seduces you and entices you into being a searcher for the Mystery yourself. It creates the heart leap, the gasp of breath, inspiring you to go further and deeper; you want to fill in the blanks for yourself." (Richard Rohr)

How can I speak, o Lord,
of the wonders You have done to me?
How can I describe
this feeling welling up in me?
How can I put into words
the depth of Your marvellous Mystery?
No words can contain

How can I define You,
the Undefinable?
How can I explain You,
the One who surpasses
all I can think or imagine?
No teaching can encompass You,
no doctrine enclose Your Fullness.
No words can contain

So I will reach for my timbrel,
I will sing, I will dance,
I will pour out my heart,
what I have seen
                                  looked at
what You have done in my life.
My little words will only
touch the hem of your mantle -
but that is enough.

Unbounded God,
let my little words,
my little song,
point the peoples beyond,
to hunger for you -
let them lift high the gates
and throw wide the doors,
welcoming You in.

You peoples,
ask me about my God,
and I will tell you a story
and I will sing you a song,
I will take my words
and paint you a picture,
drawing you in
to look more closely,
to seek and to find,
to ask and to knock
to taste and to see
the One Who Is.


[2.-3. October 2015]

Here's what I do when I should be preparing a sermon...

This meditation from Richard Rohr (about poetry and religion) pretty much stands in the background of this... (I highly recommend you read it!) I was reading the meditation and somehow had to think of Miriam, who proclaimed God's actions at the crossing of the Red Sea through song and poetry!

There's quite a bunch of references that slipped in while I wrote this one (there were more, but some slipped back out in later drafts):
  • Touching the hem of God's mantle - from the story of the woman with issue of blood who touched the hem of Jesus' mantle and was healed (Mk 5:25-34). That's why "it is enough" to just touch the hem with our words: even just knowing a little bit about God (which is all we know now! 1 Cor 13:12) is all right. We don't have to be able to explain God or fit Him into some rational system. We just have to believe.
  • "What I have seen / heard / looked at / touched" (1 John 1:1) - We pass on what we have ourselves experienced with Jesus. I believe the most effective way to tell people about God is not through rational debates or discussions or attempts to explain. Part of what makes God God is that He goes beyond what we can explain and imagine. We can't define God, but we can describe Him, which is why the Bible is full of imagery (God as Shepherd, God as Mother, God as Husband, God as Mother-Hen, God as Fortress...) which I think gives us a far clearer explanation than all our attempts at dogmatic formulations. Even all our dogmatic formulations in the end rely on imagery, poetry and metaphor (Jesus as the Word, God as the Father, ...). We can't make a scientific "rule" or "law" about God or about how salvation works. When we have experienced God, though, and experienced His salvation, we can describe it, and our experience can't be destroyed by any rational answer because no one can deny you your experience.
  • "Lift high the gates" - Psalm 24
  • "I will tell you a story / and I will sing you a song" - this was not really inspired by the Fanny Crosby hymn "Blessèd Assurance", but after I had written those lines I was reminded of it. ^^ I do believe that stories, poetry and art are a more powerful and effective way to bring truth across than rational/logical argumentation. God goes beyond the rational; we can't stick Him in a box! I agree with Richard Rohr (as quoted at the start of the poem) that story/art/poetry is stronger than discourses and treatises in that it points beyond. It does not claim or attempt to give the full answer.
    This other meditation by Fr. Rohr is really good too, about how "myth"/story shows us truth beyond just "facts". I believe nowadays we often wrongly equate "facts" with "truth". Facts are not always true, and truth does not always show itself in "facts" or in things that can be scientifically or rationally proven. Story however opens us up to deeper truths that can't be expressed in any rational system.
  • Ask / seek / knock from Mt 7:7
  • Taste and see (Ps 34:9) - I believe something precious in festivals like Passover or celebrating Communion is that we re-live and experience what God has done in previous generations. God lets Himself be tasted and experienced. I believe all the (rationalistic) debates about Communion and attempts to explain what happens in Communion have distracted from what it actually means and what it does to us. We don't have to explain it - any explanation will not do the moment justice. We need to experience it, because it's all about experience, about being able to taste God, feel God, actually even "chew" God (John 6:54)!
  • "The One Who Is" - Ex 3:14 "I am the I am"

Picture by Anselm Feuerbach

No comments:

Post a Comment