I’m traveling on Friday so I’m posting a day early, and I’m just going to share two gifts that came my way this week. The first is a book of poetry by Jonathan Jackson. The title is Book of Solace and Madness. Jonathan is not only a poet but also a musician, writer, and actor. And an Orthodox Christian. I loved his book, The Mystery of Art, which I blogged about here:
I haven’t asked Jonathan’s permission to reprint an entire poem from his collection, but I’d like to share just part of one here, from Number 18:
This is my last act of defiance. This is my
sacred rage, my holy madness. This is my
soul’s rebellion—to live in the radiance of your
joy, and swim the insanity of your bliss.
And part of one more, Number 14:
Mother of Beauty, I stand in awe, beside my
shadow of doubt, where honesty and faith
converse as kin. I stand in awe, before the
symphony of your creation.
That awe Jonathan experiences happens when we pay attention, which is something I was reminded of in another gift I received this week.
The second gift came through Father Stephen Freeman’s blog on Thursday, when he wrote about “The Poetry of God.” I’ve always been drawn to the theologians who were also poets. Like St. Isaac the Syrian, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Nikolai Velimirovich, and the contemporary poets Scott Cairns and Mary Karr. They notice things. As Father Stephen says:
The Fathers tell us to “pay attention.” This is true with regard to the heart, but it is also true with regard to the world around us. Attention does not solve the mystery, but it at least acknowledges its presence and gives rise to enough wonder to make understanding possible at some point.
In the Divine Liturgy there are places where the deacon turns to the congregation and says, “Let us attend!” Pay attention, because something mystical is about to happen. The Gospel is going to be read. The Holy Spirit is going to descend on the Gifts. And if we listen and watch and touch and smell and feel, we just might have an encounter with the living God.