Comments on Canticle of Canticles and Isaiah

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book An Altar in the World, encourages practices of prayer and meditation that are NOT abstract and in some ideal place, but are feeling the dirt between your toes and hearing the birds sing and relishing every gritty detail about being on this earth. Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, encourages meditation that goes into the body.  He advises such techniques as listening to the silence between sounds, or following the sound of a bell into silence, or following your breathing into the body.  The idea, of course, is to quiet the mind and the ego so that there is space for the present, the now, and the divine. The Canticle of Canticle is a perfect book for getting into the body.  There is a whole history of interpretations of this book, from the first time it was acknowledged as part of Scripture.  Interpreters were quick to create an allegorical and a mystical interpretation, to get away from its flagrant eroticism and so to interpret it as a dialogue between God and Israel or between Christ and the Church.  After all, there is a biblical history of understanding God’s relationship with humans as similar to the relationship between a bride and a bridegroom.   –Because, whenever we say ‘love,’ we are raising implications of romantic, physical love. Barbara Brown Taylor has a shocking passage about this (p. 38).  She relates a conversation with a fellow minister about attraction and spiritual intimacy with God.  The union with God is very, very similar on our human level to that between a husband and wife, with that idealized sexual love in this marvelous book called the Canticle of Canticles. It may be a relief to turn the page from the Canticle and arrive in the Bible at the Prophet Isaiah, except that he, too, acknowledges our fleshly humanness, even in writing these lines which Christians have long understood as referring to Jesus and his Mother:  “…the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (7:14).    Sex is how we continue to live, to populate the world, and to experience one of the greatest pleasures and closeness this world has to offer.  Isaiah could be considered implying that it is the way the divine enters the world. The mystics, the enlightened contemplatives, acknowledged this and were able to integrate it into their spirituality.  They could look at a picture of St. Teresa of Avila in ecstasy and understand the physicality of it without being thrown.  They had come to a place where the physical and the divine were no longer opposites.  They could imagine God as spouse, lover, embracing, kissing and becoming one.   They could...

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Comments on Jeremiah and Ezekiel

Rev. Richard Rohr, in his daily meditations for April 29 and 30, 2012, writes about the world, the flesh and the devil as sources of violence in our contemporary society as they were in all of past history.   In dealing with the world, Father Rohr reminds us that this one is the most invisible.  We are almost entirely focused on the flesh and individual “sin.” It is much more difficult to see the evil in our culture and our establishments and our systems.  This is what the prophets were good at, and probably why they are and were mostly ignored.  Jeremiah hated this role.  He knew God chose him for it, but that didn’t keep him from disliking what he had to say and do.  Everyone considered him unpatriotic because he was calling into question what the society at that time felt was the only way to speak and act.   An article on global warming and “The Climate Fixers” by Michael Specter in the May 14 issue of The New Yorker reminds us of the relevance of these two prophets.   Depending on which political party you follow, the effects of CO2 emissions on the planet are either to be dismissed or are dire prophecies of the end of the world as we know it.    Still, the New Yorker article introduces several people and organizations that are working on solutions to global warming, and offer some reason for hope. And both Jeremiah and Ezekiel offer hope– Ezekiel in his famous passage concerning the dry bones.  Believers throughout the ages have placed their hope in the Lord, and have put this hope against all the doomsayers of every age. However, that does not mean that we do nothing, and simply let causes of global warming go unchallenged.  In our American culture which is based on capitalism, it may be the religious people who have to call attention to the evils that capitalism can allow, and be the people who say NO, even when profits and shareholders and boards do not permit corporations to control their emissions nor their seeking for greater...

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