I was a hidden treasure, then I desired to be known... -- a frequently-cited hadith qudsi
God is the light of the heavens and the earth. His light is like a niche in which is a lantern, The lantern in a glass, The glass like a shimmering star, Kindled from a blessed tree, An olive, neither of the East nor of the West, Its oil almost aglow, though untouched by fire. Light upon light! -- Surat al-Nur 35 (translated by Tarif Khalidi)
Why I am an Orthodox Christian by Rebecca Matovic A response to the ochlophobic faith-literary-art challenge. Fred Hoyle: "Whenever anyone, at whatever level of sophistication, seeks to understand a little more about the universe, that is worship."
I. ‘No theology is of any threat or consequence until we try to apply it to our lives. Such is the case with this study of Jesus. Our lives will be safely humdrum until we dare to live like our master.’ – Gayle D. Erwin, The Jesus Style
II. ‘Most theatrical was the mystery and complexity of the Orthodox ritual at the holy shrine of St Sophia, which had more affinities to a mystical dialogue between celebrants and the faithful than to a religious service. This sacred drama was enhanced by the heavy use of incense, and its setting among gilt-edged mosaics of saints and emperors and indescribably edifying ikons, their eyes turned towards heaven, motioning the faithful to prayer.’ – Radu R. Florescu & Raymond T. McNally, Dracula: Prince of Many Faces—His Life & His Times
III. October Evening (in the Vale of Glamorgan) by A.G. Prys-Jones
The purple tapestries of dusk Hung glittering and glowing in the high Broad marches of the vivid evening sky: And all the Vale like soft, blue velvet lay In folded distances. Deep inland from the sea To the bare uplands where the brown hills ride Above the mists of autumn like tall ships, Each field, each hedge, each gracious tree Stood etched, it seemed forever, in that air Of stilled, ecstatic eventide… As if some wondering angel, unaware, Had left a glimpse of the ultimate Kingdom there In final, tranquil beauty, and set free To pierce the dimness of our mortal sight, A vision of our immortality: A facet of infinity to light The blest perfection which the mystics know, Holy as silence of new-fallen snow, Serene and flawless as a precious gem.
And through the glowing dusk, an early star Gave token of that realm where all things move In ageless wisdom and immortal love: Where death and sorrow and the year’s decay Throw no chill shadows on eternal day, Where men grown cold through wintry journeying Walk in the warm, green solace of the spring.
“No one can be a Platonist after the coming of Jesus Christ.” – Eric Voegelin
“It was at Rome, on the 15th of October, 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to my mind.” – Edward Gibbon, Memoirs
“A more fundamental defect of [J.A.] Pocock’s analysis is epitomized by his seeming perplexity over [Edward] Gibbon’s report of his musings and resolve in the Roman Forum in the dusk of 15 October 1764. Gibbon may have begun by intending to write of the decline and fall of the city and the empire, but he ended up writing of the triumph of barbarism and religion. Yet, Pocock wonders out loud, ‘the barbarians at least are not mentioned and are hard to discern in his account of the Capitoline vision.” Pocock’s taxonomy of barbarians, detailed in the rest of the paragraph, keeps him from recognizing that those barefooted friars are themselves the barbarians. What could more concisely and vividly capture the conquest and the fall than this spectacle: that on the ‘memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Cesar fell,’ in the very Temple of Jupiter, Franciscans now sang Vespers?” – Ralph Lerner, “Musings in the Ruins” (review of Barbarism and Religion)
[From Seth Benardete, Encounters and Reflections]
Seth [Benardete]: Well, what [the Roman writers] all see—and this has something to do with the problem of depoeticization—is that Greek poetry has become real.
Michael: With Augustus?
Seth: With Augustus, the whole notion of the transcendentality of the kalon, which is the character of poetic religion, has been cut off, because now it’s been fully realized by a man on earth becoming a god.
Robert [Berman]: So the Greek gods get replaced.
. . .
Seth: Concretized, right, in an individual. There’s no longer either imperial expansion or aspiration, along with the collapse of the political entirely. So everyone has become a slave. At the same time that there’s no longer any eros, there’s no kalon. And immediately after this, that is, as soon as the Julio-Claudian dynasty gets set up, everybody in the family begins to reenact Greek tragedy, ending with Nero killing his mother and reciting tragic poetry on the stage. Claudius marries the daughter of his brother, in accordance with the fact that barbarians have always allowed this. That was the argument given to the Senate.
Robert: Everything’s being acted out.
Michael [Davis]: It’s not simply done on the stage for spectators, which shows something about the character of Rome. The things that were once poetic stories now somehow come into being. But it must be significant that it’s Greek tragedy in particular that gets realized.
. . .
Seth: Necessarily, sure. You can put it this way. If Greek poetry in this mode is the reassumption of the barbarian within the poetic, then you have now the total realization of the barbarian in reality.
. . .
Ronna [Burger]: Why can’t the emperor embody the kalon?
Seth: He does embody it, no longer as a statue, though, but as a human being. As a statue of course, it points beyond itself; but if it’s a human being, there’s nothing beyond. And that’s crucial for the kalon.
Robert: There’s a detranscendentalizing.
Seth: Right. You can see Christianity fits with this in an extraordinary way. It is carrying this out on a massive scale. Robert: So it’s connected with what we said before about Christianity’s denial of the ultimate difference between god and man. There is no transcendence.
. . .
Seth: Yes, and just because it’s doing it in a depoliticized way, it’s offering true freedom.
Ronna: You don’t have to be a Roman?
Seth: Well, two funny things happen. Christianity gets set up before the destruction of the second temple, that is, before, within the empire, the last vestige of what it means to be alien on earth disappears, represented by the Jews. So Christianity looks like it should have a confirmation of itself in the destruction of the second temple and therefore the abeyance of the ceremonial law. At the same time it seems to be acknowledging what everybody knows in their hearts but not as a fact, because on some level there are still slaves and free—that everybody is now really a slave. And therefore the only way out of this absolutely all-embracing empire, now that Judaism is gone, is—
Ronna: The other-worldly.
Seth: Right. There seems to be some awareness by everybody that this is the new situation.
It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.
And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.
Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,
bump into things.
Only Midas himself
If we could understand and love the infinity of agonies which languish
around us, all the lives which are hidden deaths, we should require as
many hearts as there are suffering beings.
〜Emil Cioran, A Short History of Decay
Why does insanity always twist the great answers?
tormented persons want truth.
Man is an animal like other animals, wants food and success and
women, not truth. Only if the mind
Tortured by some interior tension has despaired of happiness:
then it hates its life-cage and seeks further,
And finds, if it is powerful enough. But instantly the private
agony that made the search
Muddles the finding.
- Robinson Jeffers, fragment from Theory Of Truth
Psalm 16 (Song of Forgiveness)
by Hubert Selby Jr.
whoever seeks me finds me
whoever finds me knows me
whoever knows me loves me
whoever loves me I love
whomever I love I kill
Song of Forgiveness:
why do you hate us with an ever lasting scorn?
we cry out to you so pained
there are those of us who do not survive
yet you remain mute
we believe in you yet you turn the other cheek to our suffering
how can you carrot so much in front of our hearts
as they wither and fall
desiccated into the gutter
defiled by your silence
writhing with unsung songs
our blood flows
sparks leap from synapse to synapse
but only to torture us
agonize us with blood cursed by our minds
knees not only bent but raw and chewed with grit and vinegar
and we too become mute
but not with indifference
but the pain of abandonment
endlessly we fight our demons as the flay us mock us and jeer
as they tear the eyes from our heads
powder our bones with jagged teeth
and spit us out in hopeful terrorized bits
that struggle to crawl together
in YOUR name
in YOUR fucking myriad of names
trying to find that ineffable self
in or beyond the bloodied and bloodied scraps
only to face your impenetrable silence
and the drooling relentless demons who
time after time
tear and shred us
their breath befouled by our putrefying flesh
I've looked in your direction
and what direction can I look that is not yours
and have been soothed with beauty
the heaviness of my heart lifted
when I hear your song as a stranger asks
"can I help you?"
the song turns the screeching derision
as the laughing child and smiling rows
twist into demon's claws and I cannot run
my legs unable to bear the weight of my hollow and tortured body
because my knees are ripped and splintered from supplication
and you strengthen me
just enough to once again face the demons
and smell my decayed flesh and dreams on their breath
oh yes you strengthen me
but only so I can once more provide an object to be tortured
and yes you lead me
but only to the playground of my tormentors
and from time to time
I am nailed to the cross to watch as friends are lead by your promises
into the arena and I see and hear their torment
all of my being rend from their cries
as their flesh is slowly peeled
and hear the screams of each tear
as it rolls slowly down their bloodied bodies
crying, weeping because their God of love
the source of infinite comfort has once again abandoned them
and mislead them yet again
and in my hopelessness vow to never again trust you
yet even as I do
knowing that you have ordained I will seek you
until I find you and am filled with love and strength
and reach out and hold your hand
to be lead back to that arena
the cross dissolves
my friends agony rips my ears and heart
though their tortured parts and bits are mute
and I make a vow from the depths of my heart
a declaration from the place within me
that goes beyond this body
beyond my soul
beyond my understanding
to never treat my friends the way you do
a vow to never turn my back on them as you do
no matter what the appearance
you may forever abuse your children
but I refuse to pass the abuse on
in and from the depths of my tortured mind and body
I will accept the responsibility of the decision to respect life
and to treat life with love
No God, No
there is no forgiveness for you
but I will forgive the demons
those helpless tools of your assemblage
and love my friends
help them find all their separated tortured selves
bathe their wounded knees and help them stand with dignity
help them stand on legs with unbent knees
and together look the demons in their eyes and love them
as they claw our flesh
their teeth splinter our bones
for the last time
we are your victims no more
and in our innocence
shall love ourselves and each other
I said to the almond tree
"speak to me of God"
and the almond tree blossomed
(1) Holy God, chuckling wise woman, tender and strange, we bless you. Bless us, trouble us, bewitch us into delight in your love, mercy and grace.
From A Prayer of Approach by Rachel Mann, Anglican priest
(2) CHRIST, BE OUR LIGHT
Longing for light, we wait in darkness. Longing for truth, we turn to you. Make us your own, your holy people, Light for the world to see.
Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine through the darkness. Christ, be our light! Shine in your Church Gathered today. Longing for peace, our world is troubled. Longing for hope, many despair. Your word alone has power to save us Make us your living voice.
Longing for food, many are hungry. Longing for water, many still thirst. Make us your bread, broken for others, Shared until all are fed.
Longing for shelter people are homeless. Longing for warmth, many are cold. Make us your building, sheltering others, Walls made of living stone.
Many the gifts, many the people, Many the hearts that yearn to belong. Let us be servants to one another, Making your kingdom come.
(3) [Pope] Clement the Eighth... spake to this purpose: “There is no learning that this man hath not searcht into; nothing too hard for his understanding: this man indeed deserves the name of an author; his books will get reverence by age, for there is in them such seeds of eternity, that if the rest be like this, they shall last till the last fire shall consume all learning.”
From Isaac Walton's The Life of Mr. Richard Hooker
(4) LO! HE COMES WITH CLOUDS DESCENDING
Lo! he comes, with clouds descending, once for our salvation slain; thousand thousand saints attending swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia! Christ the Lord returns to reign.
Every eye shall now behold him, robed in dreadful majesty; those who set at nought and sold him, pierced, and nailed him to the tree, deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.
Those dear tokens of his passion still his dazzling body bears, cause of endless exultation to his ransomed worshipers; with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture gaze we on those glorious scars!
Now redemption, long expected, see in solemn pomp appear; all his saints, by man rejected, now shall meet him in the air:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia! See the day of God appear!
Yea, amen! let all adore thee, high on thine eternal throne; Savior, take the power and glory; claim the kingdom for thine own: Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia! Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.
There is not a guarantee in the world. Oh your needs are guaranteed, your needs are absolutely guaranteed by the most stringent of warranties, in the plainest, truest words: knock; seek; ask. But you must read the fine print. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." That's the catch. If you can catch it will catch you up, aloft, up to any gap at all, and you'll come back, for you will come back, transformed in a way you may not have bargained for—dribbling and crazed. The waters of separation, however lightly sprinkled, leave indelible stains. Did you think before you were caught, that you needed, say, a life? Do you think you will keep your life, or anything else you love? But no. Your needs are all met. But not as the world giveth. You see the needs of your own spirit met whenever you have asked, and you have learned that the outrageous guarantee holds. You see the creatures die, an you know you will die. And one day it occurs to you that you must not need life. Obviously. And then you're gone. You have finally understood that you're dealing with a maniac.
— Annie Dillard
It had seemed to her that the dancers meant to dance forever in that slow, deliberate way. There was something so grave and mysterious in it, those old men chanting in the sun, and the dancers so … so terribly serious in what they were doing. ... They were not merely sad or formal or devout; it was nothing like that. It was simply that they were grave, distant, intent upon something that she could not see. Their eyes were held upon some vision out of range, something away in the end of distance, some reality that she did not know, or even suspect. What was it that they saw? Probably they saw nothing after all, nothing at all. But then that was the trick, wasn't it? To see nothing at all, nothing in the absolute. To see beyond the landscape, beyond every shape and shadow and color, that was to see nothing. That was to be free and finished, complete, spiritual. To see nothing slowly and by degrees, at last; to see first the pure, bright colors of near things, then all pollutions of color, all things blended and vague and dim in the distance, to see finally beyond the clouds and the pale wash of the sky — the none and nothing beyond that. To say "beyond the mountain," and to mean it, to mean, simply, beyond everything for which the mountain stands, of which it signifies the being. Somewhere, if only she could see it, there was neither nothing nor anything. And there, just there, that was the last reality.
— N. Scott Momaday
L'ouragan arrache tout autour de moi
Et I'ouragan arrache en moi feuilles et paroles futiles.
Des tourbillons de passion sifflent en silence
Mais paix sur la tornade sèche, sur la fuite de I'hivernage!
Toi Vent ardent Vent pur Vent-de-belle-saison, brûle toute
fleur toute pensée vaine
Quand retombe Ie sable sur les dunes du cœur.
Servante, suspends ton geste de statue et vous, enfants, vos
jeux et vos rires d'ivoire.
Toi, qu'elle consume ta voix avec ton corps, qu'elle sèche
Ie parfum de ta chair
La flamme qui illumine ma nuit, comme une colonne et
comme une palme.
Embrasse mes lèvres de sang, Esprit, souffle sur les cordes
de ma kôra
Que s'èléve mon chant, aussi pur que I'or de Galam.