Thursday, December 17, 2015

O Antiphons revisited

Latin phrases often evoke strange, and sometimes bizarre, associations for me. At Christ Church Cranbrook in 2011, as I listened to the choir chant the traditional Advent “O Antiphons”, these are some of the random thoughts that occurred to me, and I wrote down…
O sapientia. O wisdom. O intelligibility. O logic. O sanity. O mathematical equations. O sentence structure and syntax. O coherence and structure and form. If objects are indeed intelligible, “does not the intelligibility of the object presuppose an intelligent ground?” (Bernard Lonergen)“O O O O that Shakespearian Rag— It’s so elegant So intelligent…” (T.S. Eliot) O sapientia, “quae ex ore altissimi prodisti, and covered the earth like a mist.’ (Ecclesiasticus 24:2) O O O O.
O Adonai. O mighty. O fire of the Burning Bush. O consumption unconsumed. O point dimensionless, at which Being emerges, unexplained, from Nothing, at this moment coaxing atoms into material existence from the vortex of whatever whirls at their center, at this moment spinning us off from the limitless center, spinning us off as atomic dervishes, whirling mightily, whirling on the seamless line where Nothing ends…
O radix Jesse. O root. O radish. O turnip. O beet. O rutabaga, O root vegetables of every kind, buried safely under earth and snow, beyond the need for retaliation or revenge, beyond the need to hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain, feeding us far into the winter, feeding us when all other food has failed, feeding us jam noli tardare – never tardy, rarely served in fashionable restaurants, barely noticed by government inspectors, ever abundant, ever prodigal, ever rooted/radix/radical/ and real…
O clavis David. O key. O combination to the lock. O password. “You open and no one closes; you close, and no one opens”. Sedentum in tenebris et umbra mortis… sedimented in darkness and under the umbrella of death… buried under yards of earth alongside the beets and radishes… buried, but here unearthed by the descent of a mighty silence, its power unlocked by chant, loud organ, and this clavis David…
O oriens- O rising dawn. O morning star. Directional orientation for every nomadic tribe, gravitational force without magnetism, center without circumference, beloved of navigators, goal of every compass, hope of the lost …(disoriented in thick woods, I came across my own boot-prints in the snow, consulted my compass, saw how lost I had become, saw, astounded, how much counterintuitivity would be required to become unlost again. From whence did all these benign themes originate? Hope for the lost…release of prisoners… kindness to strangers… peace among peoples… food for the hungry…water in drought-stricken places… a universal vision of gentleness and mutual peace… how did such notions come to swirl together with such force within the literature of one small middle-eastern country?... How do such far-fetched notions come to resonate so powerfully with us still?
O Rex gentium… O ruler of the unruly and the alien, the unbelievers and the unsaved…O rock and cornerstone…lapisque angularis…
Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in lapis lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird,
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.
W.B. Yeats, Lapis Lazuli
We are the long-legged bird, lifted by the music for a bird’s eye view, lifted high above the angle of the rock, our lapisque angularis, which is our listening-post, our perch, our launch pad, and, if we ever hope to come to earth again, our landing-zone.
O Emmanuel… O God-who-is with, with us, with it …with our children in an unknown future, with these singers in a flourishing past, with us witless pilgrims come from outer space, washed up unexpected on what Holy Isle?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sisterly Cousins: Mary and Elizabeth contra mundum (originally written after the Newtown school shootings)

Meditation on Luke 1:39-45  The pregnant Virgin visits her cousin Elizabeth, also unexpectedly 

This gospel story has to do with the outrageous joy of those who find themselves unexpectedly blessed. 

What is so outrageous about joy? Because it persists and rebounds amongst the shambles of a violent world, a place of murdered children and their martyred minders, a place that sees  grieving parents blamed by pistol-packing pastors and the funerals of innocents picketed by professional haters. 

Outrageous because we ourselves are killers,  sending out unmanned drones to patrol the outskirts of our empire, like guardian angels with their souls detached and projected through the air from  a thousand miles away, projected into space and refracted back, lethal as a crossbow or a spear, except not so precisely aimed. In this way we protect ourselves from enemies (and anyone else in their vicinity), without any risk to ourselves, without disturbance to our shopping sprees. 
The only joy that can survive in such a place would have to be outrageous, or else simply blind, or nuts.                                                        


I prefer to think, outrageous. Valid, like Elizabeth crying out as the Blessed Mary came waltzing through the door, “And why has this happened to me?” How is it that we find ourselves so pregnant, after all these unpromising events and unfulfiling years? How is it that, regardless of our gender or our years, potential squirms within us at the sound of a friendly voice? How is it that we feel outrageous joy, despite the danger looming in the sky and at the school?

With Mary and Elizabeth we are called into subversive conclave, meeting in the hill country to avoid detection by unmanned killer drones, meeting to laugh and slap each other gently on the back (for we are pregnant, after all), meeting to practice breathing and breast feeding techniques, and give vent to the outrageous joy of those who find themselves so unexpectedly blessed.         

Friday, December 11, 2015

Prosaic Christmas

I seem to be
Without poetry
A refugee
Like them,
And Thee.