The Divine Symphony

July 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

Scripture is like a symphony.  One does not listen to just one note or one measure or one chord or one theme.  Scripture vibrates and resonates.  There are echoes one can hear.  One musical instrument answering another.  Or questioning.  Cymbals clashing.  Silences.  Conversations.  The sounds of water.  Of trees rustling.  If you listen closely.  If you read with heart tuned.  Scripture arose through such a process.  And it remains alive for those who steep themselves (in it) as one steeps tea.

This morning I was reading Psalm 39 (40) – depending upon how one counts the psalms.  And I heard it speaking, not just to me, but to the end of John’s Gospel.   Or you could say I understood that the end of John’s Gospel was like an echo/commentary on verses of that psalm.  And hearing the melody gave me new insight into what the writer of John was doing.  For when one hears such a melody it is like a cue to await further reverberations hidden in both texts.

Origin was a master at this way of reading scripture.  Like someone weaving an exquisite tapestry, he moves back and forth throughout the entire Bible – using vibrant colored threads to create images and metaphors as he brings to life a text – through other texts.   He is both breathtaking and charming.  And I’ve only just begun to drink deeply at the wells he’s opened up, whose waters have seeped into much of spiritual and theological writing (in spite of his being martyred as a heretic).

But I digress…

Let’s start with the end of John’s Gospel.  Which is probably familiar to many.  Its final verse [John 21:25] reads:

But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

And now listen to this verse from Psalm 40 (Grail Version):

6 How many, O LORD my God,

are the wonders and designs

that you have worked for us;

you have no equal.

Should I wish to proclaim or speak of them,

they would be more than I can tell!

Now, whether or not this is the real ending to John is not our concern here.  But this resonance between the Old and New Testaments, between prayer (the psalm) and announcing the Good News (the Gospel) is just one example of what occurs all over the place in scripture.  It is exactly the method the resurrected Christ taught the disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  A method clearly understood and practiced by Origin. 

John’s Gospel can usefully be read as a call to decision.  As a witness to events, which prompts a response.  Indeed its penultimate verse hints at a community which seems to endorse the Gospel writer as:  “the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.”  A community of converts one has to assume.  Perhaps even a community whose members might have experienced conversion in the manner of psalm 40 [NRSV]:

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

4 Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.

6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.’

9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

11 Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe for ever.
12 For evils have encompassed me
without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me.
14 Let all those be put to shame and confusion
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonour
who desire my hurt.
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, ‘Aha, Aha!’

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God.

I hope perhaps this psalm may be your guide to a closer reading of John’s Gospel (and its impact on you).  Just as Luke’s story of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (and their subsequent carrying of Jesus’ message back to Jerusalem) resonates like an opening theme or interpretive key – for the Gospel it immediately precedes.   Opening our eyes to the fact that nothing in scripture stands by itself.

This is just one tiny example of the power of the Divine Symphony which plays in Scripture.  And of which we ourselves are a part.  We too are words spoken by our Creator.  Notes in the cosmic symphony.  Like musical instruments awaiting the Spirit’s breath to come to life.   Exactly as the psalmist did in the words above.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.


Slicing time: 1/4000 of a Second

July 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Who would have imagined that we could break up Time?

That we could capture what is unseen to the naked eye?

Each.  Tiny.  Fraction of Time.  Matters.

Alan's Camera captured this from a fountain at 1/4000 sec.

And apropos of nothing (except the concept of Time, TS Eliot’s kind of time), I’ve been thinking of translating Goethe’s famous lyric poem, well, the most famous lyric poem in all of German literature.

First a timely quote from Eliot:

….. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).

The evening with Alan‘s photograph album… And so… back to Goethe, a Romantic poet, so different from Eliot, who always must lead us into the darkest dark.  But I digress…

Goethe’s Wandrers Nachtlied. Literally, “Wayfarer’s Night Song.”   What we would call a “Lullaby.”   Should I call it Hiker’s Lullaby?   Trekker’s Lullaby?  Both would be accurate.  But I’ve settled on Pilgrim’s Lullaby, because I think this title provides a deeper connotation for what I see in the poem.

The German has very few lines.  And few syllables in each line.  I’ve tried to follow that pattern.  As well as to keep to the simplicity of words, the directness of language.  All to hint at an atmosphere the poem conveys.

So here goes…

Pilgrim’s Lullaby                                                                              

Repose nestles over the hilltops.

Hardly a breath rustles the trees.

Birdsong’s hush quiets the woodland.

Bide your time.  Soon…

You’ll rest in peace too.

Strictly speaking, the second line should end in the word “treetops” – but so as not to repeat “tops” and to limit the number of syllables, I took a bit of liberty.


In case you know German, here’s the Original.  I memorized it so long ago…

Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.

The rhyme scheme is exquisite.   Schubert set it to music.

In Memory of PCA

August 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve just received news that a dear internet friend died on August 2, 2010.

PCA was not a religious person.  But I have no doubt that he was a kindred spirit.  Even if he didn’t know it – then. And I trust in the Mercy of God.  PCA was funny, quirky, and cared passionately about other people, the fate of his nation, and the fate of the world.  He would have given you the shirt off his back.  But in the end he learned to receive that kind of thing from others, as he faced a dire illness with no health insurance.  In addition to tears and tributes from many on the internet, he will be missed by friends and family.  Because he was such a private person it apparently took some time and some doing before his family were able to connect with anyone on the internet – to inform them of his passing.

He has receive the amazing tribute of a post put up by the Moderator at TPM Cafe – under his TPM moniker, PseudoCyAnts.

At the end of his life, PCA turned his hand to making art, what he called fractalsThis one was saved by stillidealistic. It is, I think, a fitting epitaph for our dear friend.  These were saved by Alan.

Farewell, dear PCA.  Memory Eternal…

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