Always Reforming

A Feather Never Sleeps by Josephine R. Unglaub

ALL THINGS NEW
Marilynne Robinson

Something I find regrettable in contemporary Christianity is the degree to which it has abandoned its own heritage, in thought, art and literature. It was the center of learning in the West for centuries because it deserved to be. Now there seems to be actual hostility on the part of many Christians to what, historically was called Christian thought, as if the whole point were to get a few things right and stand pat.

2 Corinthians 5:16–6:10

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

6 We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For He says:

“In an acceptable time I have heard you,
And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
3 We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed. 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.


A preacher friend, describing his personal theology said “I believe the Bible, but I’m not mad about it!”  That’s a bit of an inside joke because religious people often earn a reputation for meanness.  How does that happen?  Well, it’s natural to be defensive when you think you’re being attacked, and the world is assaultive when it comes to Christianity.  The most logical reaction is to put up walls and fire back.

The problem with that of course is that you can’t advance when you are hiding in your fortress.  When we pray ‘thy kingdom come’, we are asking to be part of the process.  It’s messy business.  To be an effective Christ follower, you have to be relevant and that’s impossible without love.  Relevancy is directly related to relationship and relationships require vulnerability.

As Ken Kovacs says in his book Out of the Depths

The Church of Jesus Christ is not a museum. We’re not a historical preservation society. We’re called to reform—reformed by the Spirit who is calling us to a new day. We need to become roomier, building new homes in which the human spirit can thrive. We’re not called to preserve the past or live in the past. Christ is alive. Christ is at work within us, now.

Is religion relevant today?

Join the discussion on Facebook HERE 

Logo

John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

D I G  D E E P E R


Marilynne Robinson and Renewal

Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson

For ages people have drawn inspiration from greatness—from Horatio at the bridge to William Tell to George Washington. But heroism is out of fashion in our time. We don’t even believe in it. Our cynicism is so pervasive that the extent of our disillusionment is taken as the measure of our maturity.

Marilynne Robinson describes this turn of mind in The Death of Adam:

“When a good man or woman stumbles, we say, “I knew it all along,” and when a bad one has a gracious moment, we sneer at the hypocrisy. It is as if there is nothing to mourn or to admire, only a hidden narrative now and then apparent through the false, surface narrative. And the hidden narrative, because it is ugly and sinister, is therefore true.”

What has happened to us is that we’ve lost our sense of God. And when we lose God, we don’t just lose religion; we lose everything worth living for. But God wants to give it all back. He has a purpose for us yet, even in our brokenness. He says, “I created you for my glory. And I want to fill your life with an inspiring new sense of destiny.”

God intends to renew the whole universe (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). That’s his goal. Do you know where he begins? Right here with us, at two levels. Isaiah shows us the God who reforms people who have lost their purpose (Isaiah 42:18–43:21). Next he’ll show us the God who revives people who have lost their vitality (43:22–44:23). The renovation of the universe begins with us in reformation and revival. Reformation is the recovery of God’s purpose for us. Revival is the recovery of God’s life in us. God loves to renew confused and tired people.

Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. and R. Kent Hughes, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 277–278.

PERCEPTION IS THE POINT

Robinson discovered that one voice influential for those writers was John Calvin, a figure Robinson has been working hard to restore. In her preface to John Calvin: Steward of God’s Covenant (2006), Robinson bristles at the fact that the Reformer has been hidden under a caricature, known only as “an apostle of gloom dominating a gloomy city,” his legacy one of “repression and persecution.” Robinson instead finds three liberating themes in Calvin’s thought, and in the preface and an earlier collection of essays, The Death of Adam (1998), she articulates how they impress upon her literary vision.

For Robinson, Calvin’s theology centers on the belief that God has given individuals the ability to commune with and respond to him without the mediation of priests or bishops. “Perception is at the center of Calvin’s theology,” she observes; God willingly floods our senses with his grandeur in such a way that we can take it in and reflect it back, his glory “shining forth” as we participate in it. “It is as if we were to find a tender solicitude toward us in the fact that the great energy that rips galaxies apart also animates our slightest thoughts.” Think how elevated a vision of the human soul this is, Robinson suggests, and how far it is from how we often view ourselves.

At the same time, our ability to perceive God is deeply compromised. None of us sees clearly; indeed, none of us even desires to. All of us turn away from God’s presence, failing “to acknowledge what ought to be obvious,” Robinson writes, inclined instead “to indolence and selfishness, dishonesty, pride and error, cruelty.” She calls the notion of total depravity the “counterweight to Calvin’s rapturous humanism,” insisting that we can’t understand the one aspect of his thought without the other.

Working together, writes Robinson, these twinned elements of “our strangely mixed nature” mean that the passage of a soul “through the vale of its making, or its destruction” will be marked by halts and recoveries, each attempt to find meaning chastened by a recognition of limits. This almost exactly describes Ruth’s voice in Housekeeping, now traced to one of its sources.

Not everyone, however, carries this realization as a great weight, or senses a chance to find release. The doctrine of election, developed in Scripture but popularly associated with Calvin, is a third element for Robinson, who links it to Calvin’s focus on perception. True perception—“the radical understanding of the presence of God, and of his nature as manifest in Christ”—is something God must grant a person. It is not natural to our fallen state.

And because God grants such ability entirely according to his own mind, we are brought into a chastening—and, to Robinson, exhilarating—encounter with “the freedom and mystery of God.” Far from inducing a dulled passivity, such a doctrine leads to a deepening awareness of the grandeur of God and the fragile beauty of one’s neighbors. To borrow a phrase from Dickinson, it keeps believing nimble.

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Thomas Gardner is professor of English at Virginia Tech.

Keeping Perception Nimble: John Calvin Has Given Pulitzer Prize Winner Marilynne Robinson a Way of Seeing That Imbues Her Novels with the Grandeur of God,” Christianity Today (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today International, 2010)

Dancing Through The Fire by Malcolm Guite

untitled

Then stir my love in idleness to flame
To find at last the free refining fire
That guards the hidden garden whence I came.

O do not kill, but quicken my desire,
Better to spur me on than leave me cold.
Not maimed I come to you, I come entire,

Lit by the loves that warm, the lusts that scald,
That you may prove the one, reprove the other,
Though both have been the strength by which I scaled

The steps so far to come where poets gather
And sing such songs as love gives them to sing.
I thank God for the ones who brought me hither

And taught me by example how to bring
The slow growth of a poem to fruition
And let it be itself, a living thing,

Taught me to trust the gifts of intuition
And still to try the tautness of each line,
Taught me to taste the grace of transformation

And trace in dust the face of the divine,
Taught me the truth, as poet and as Christian,
That drawing water turns it into wine.

Now I am drawn through their imagination
To dare to dance with them into the fire,
Harder than any grand renunciation,

To bring to Christ the heart of my desire
Just as it is in every imperfection,
Surrendered to his bright refiner’s fire

That love might have its death and resurrection.

Hear Malcolm Guite read today’s poem


It is somehow easier for us to understand Jesus as the Son of God than the Son of Man.  When Christ spoke of Himself this way, the gospel of John says the crowds were astonished and asked “Who is this Son of Man?”  His reply was instructive.  He said “A little while longer the light is with you.  Walk while you have the light lest the darkness overtake you…”  We tend to suppress our humanity as somehow bereft of the imago Dei, yet here we find Jesus with both promise and warning.

Desire which fuels our passion is not to be extinguished but rather elevated from corrupt and poor substitutions by the light of Christ.  We are grateful to poets who strengthen and inspire us to lift our heads as children of God.  As Malcolm Guite writes in The Word in the Wilderness:

Through them I learned that the right response to Eros is not to ask for less desire, but for more, to deepen my desires until nothing but Heaven can satisfy them. I also take occasion here to think about the art of poetry itself. There is a parallel, I think between our love-life and the making of poetry. In both there is an initial gift and inspiration, a subtle and all-transforming intuition of beauty. But in both this might easily be frittered away or corrupted. The first glimpse, the intuition, which as it did for Yeats’s Wandering Aengus, should lead to a life-times quest, can be lost or dissipated in the pursuit of one will’o’the wisp after another. Or we can be faithful to it: that first intuition, that graceful gift of love can be attended to, and shaped.

How does passion reveal the image of God?

John 12:34–36

The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), Italian poet and philosopher. Little is known of his early life except that he was born in Florence, lost his parents before he was 18, was betrothed at the age of 12 and married in 1293. In 1274 he first met his Beatrice (prob. Bice Portinari, the daughter of a Florentine citizen and wife of Simone dei Bardi), and he became her poet nine years later. Her death in 1290 led to a crisis, resolved by writing the Vita nuova (prob. in 1292, possibly later) in which he promised her a poem ‘such as had been written for no lady before’, a promise fulfilled in the *Divina Commedia. He then turned to the study of philosophy, prob. under the *Dominicans at Florence, and wrote a series of allegorical Canzoni or odes on the Lady Philosophy and literal ones on Courtesy, Nobility, Liberality, and Justice. In 1294 he entered politics but, having supported the opponents of Pope *Boniface VIII, he was exiled from Florence in 1301 and travelled widely in Italy. He returned to the study of philosophy and wrote the incomplete De Vulgari Eloquentia in Latin and began the Convivio (Banquet), which was designed to comment freely on his earlier philosophical Canzoni. In the course of the fourth book he became aware of the significance of the Roman Empire; the appearance of the Emp. Henry VII in Italy at the same time (1310) converted Dante into an ardent supporter of the Emperor, for whom he wrote in Latin the treatise De Monarchia (1312–14?). This work, which was condemned as heretical (*Averroist) in 1329, argued the need for a universal monarchy to achieve the temporal happiness of mankind and the independence of the Empire from the Pope and the Church, which should abandon all temporal authority and possessions and concentrate on happiness in the world to come. Dante’s political prospects were shattered by the death of Henry VII in 1313, and in 1315 his native city of Florence renewed its sentence against him. He spent some years at *Verona and from c. 1316 lived at *Ravenna, where he died. The last period of his life was devoted to the completion of the Divina Commedia (q.v.), which established him as one of the few poets who belong to all times and all nations.

 
F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 453.

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings.  For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page

Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith

 

51vg-xoskvl-_sy346_For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.

Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.
Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.

 

Art: London Street Art: Golden Lady by Josephine R. Unglaub

Josephine R. Unglaub
Josephine R. Unglaub

Unglaub is a German-based artist and photographer with a passion for surrealism. Her work can be found here: https://lemanshots.wordpress.com

 

 

Batter My Heart by John Donne

untitledBatter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Hear Malcolm Guite read today’s poem


Spiritual truth is difficult for the rational mind to grasp.  The Bible says the Holy Spirit will guide us to all truth and indeed, absent God’s intrusion, our modern minds gravitate to only that which is reasonable – and reason is a hobbled teacher.  We understand this most directly in matters of love, for as Pascal reminds us “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know.”

In today’s poem by John Donne, we see this on full display.  To fulfill the greatest commandment, our love for God must be one of unmitigated passion, and the poet acknowledges his wavering heart. In The Word in the Wilderness, Malcolm Guite says this:

Now it’s personal. If the call to God to stop tinkering seemed too mechanistic, and the siege warfare too grandiose and impersonal, now we come to the heart of things and the true intimacy. Now the quest to be re-united and ‘right’ with God becomes, paradoxically the yearning away from the mere institution to the call of true love. In an age of arranged marriages, Donne who himself had incurred the wrath of his patron and a term in prison for marrying for love, knew what it was to have a true love frustrated and constrained by external forces. It is a daring and helpful image to think of God as the secret lover to whom we yearn in spite of all the current institutional commercial and consumer forces, our forced marriage to secularism, that try to keep us from him!

Was there a time when you loved someone beyond reason?

How does that inform your understanding of the greatest commandment?

Matthew 22:36–40

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

 

D I G  D E E P E R


John Donne

John Donne
John Donne

(1571/2–1631), Metaphysical poet and Dean of St Paul’s. He was a member of a RC family, his mother being the sister of the Jesuit missionary priest Jasper Heywood, and a granddaughter of a sister of Sir Thomas More. He entered Hart Hall, Oxford, in 1584 and possibly studied after this at Cambridge, or perhaps abroad. He entered Thavies Inn in 1591 and transferred to Lincoln’s Inn in 1592. During this period he was much exercised over the problem of his religious allegiance and for a time, according to I. *Walton, ‘betrothed himself to no Religion that might give him any other denomination than a Christian’. By 1598 he had certainly conformed to the Church of England. In 1596 he accompanied Essex and Raleigh to Cadiz and in 1597 to the Azores; and in 1598 became private secretary to the Lord Keeper, Sir Thomas Egerton, a post from which he was dismissed four years later owing to his secret marriage to Ann More, his master’s wife’s niece, in 1601. During the next years he and his growing family lived in poverty and dependence on the charity of friends. Around this period he composed but did not publish Biathanatos, a casuistic discussion and defence of suicide. He found employment in controversial writing and in 1610 wrote the Pseudo-Martyr to persuade Catholics that they might take the Oath of Allegiance. In the next year he wrote a witty satire on the Jesuits, Ignatius his Conclave. After repeated failures to find secular employment he at last complied with the wish of the King and was ordained in 1615. The reason he himself gave for delay was scruple at accepting orders as a means of making a living. In 1621 he became Dean of St Paul’s, where he preached on all great festivals. He was also a regular preacher at court and a favourite with both James and Charles. During a serious illness in 1623 he wrote his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624), and the famous ‘Hymn to God the Father’. He died in 1631 and was buried in St Paul’s. His monument, showing him standing in his shroud, survived the Great Fire.

F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 503–504.

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite
Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings.  For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page

Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith

 

51vg-xoskvl-_sy346_For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.

Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.
Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.
Josephine R. Unglaub

Art: Conversation, designed and created by Josephine R. Unglaub

Unglaub is a German-based artist and photographer with a passion for surrealism. Her work can be found here: https://lemanshots.wordpress.com

Fairy Tales by George MacDonald (1871)

The Cloud Tellers by by Josephine R. Unglaub

SURPRISED BY JOY
C.S. Lewis

“Turning to the bookstall, I picked out an Everyman in a dirty jacket, Phantastes: A Faerie Romance, George MacDonald. Then the train came in. I can still remember the voice of the porter calling out the village names, Saxon and sweet as a nut—‘Bookham, Effingham, Horsley train.’ That evening I began to read my new book.”…“It is as if I were carried sleeping across the frontier, or as if I had died in the old country and could never remember how I came alive in the new … It was Holiness. It was as though the voice which had called to me from the world’s end were now speaking at my side.”…“It was with me in the room, or in my own body, or behind me. If it had once eluded me by its distance, it now eluded me by proximity—something too near to see, too plain to be understood, on this side of knowledge.”


It is difficult to overstate the influence of George MacDonald.  In his own day he was hailed as a visionary, befriended by the likes of Mark Twain and sought after by royalty.  Queen Victoria gave MacDonald’s novels to her grandchildren and granted him a Civil Pension in 1877.  The impact of his work grew stronger after his death, notably contributing to the conversion of C.S. Lewis.  He was a master of story-craft and his complex imagination yielded literature textured with layer upon layer of meaning in the fabric of simplicity.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

We should, however, be careful about working too hard at any exact interpretation of these stories. MacDonald himself resisted giving any explanations, and when asked what one of them meant, he tersely replied, “So long as I think my dog can bark, I will not sit up and bark for him.”1 He left the stories to speak for themselves. And they do not speak to us as allegories or intellectual puzzles aimed at the mind but rather as mythic tales aimed at the heart. They are meant to show us truths that do not easily reduce to rational explanations and provoke a more intuitive response from the reader. There are layers of meanings at work here, all of them valid: physical, spiritual, mythical, and psychological. Each of these layers interpenetrate and illuminate each other, which is why these stories are not so much meant to illustrate theological truths as to help us find our way into a different way of experiencing these truths.

MacDonald projected his own inner life into his stories to make them feel universal, a reflection of our own personal stories. His words arouse our dormant longings for truth and goodness as we journey with his young protagonists on their paths through danger and discovery and miracle. Alongside these young heroes and heroines we meet supernatural beings and find familiarity and friendship with these residents of a realm beyond our own. MacDonald’s tales are not unlike dreams, mixing all their disparate elements together into something that creates an impression and a feeling rather than simply communicating an idea.

Has your life been shaped by fairy tales?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R


George MacDonald

George MacDonald

(1824–1905), Scottish novelist and poet. Educated at the University of Aberdeen and at Highbury College, London, he became a *Congregational minister, but in 1853 left the ministry to devote himself to literature. His writings, largely based on the life and customs of NE Scotland, include the novels David Elginbrod (1863), Alec Forbes of Howglen (1865), Malcolm (1875), and Donal Grant (3 vols., 1883). MacDonald’s books, which were highly valued by C. S. *Lewis, reveal firm religious faith, moral enthusiasm, and Christian optimism. He was also the author of several religious works, including Unspoken Sermons (1867, 1885, 1889) and The Miracles of our Lord (1886).

Unraveling Phantastes

Ever since C. S. Lewis penned his autobiography, there have been readers—even Lewis scholars—mystified by Phantastes. Compelled to read the book that Lewis said “most shaped my philosophy of life,” and “baptized my imagination,” they pick it up, get bogged down within pages, and put it down. Permanently.

Some find that if they begin with MacDonald’s children’s books, read a few fairy tales, then try a novel along the lines of Sir Gibbie or Alec Forbes, by the time they return to Phantastes they are much better equipped. But perhaps the best key is understanding the historical context: the relationship between a reader and a text has changed considerably since the early Victorian period.

Few early Victorians were privileged enough to own many books, and a book was not simply read once and set aside. It was read and reread, the reader engaging with the text ever more deeply, each reading revealing new connections and presenting yet another journey. It was only during the lifetime of MacDonald, with the advent of penny novels and lending libraries and the popularity of magazines and serializations, that this approach to reading significantly changed. Phantastes, like all books before it, expects a long-term relationship with the reader.

It is helpful when reading Phantastes to follow one theme that is noticeable early on in the tale … what it means to “die to oneself,” for instance. As this unfolds, other interwoven themes become evident, providing the next thread for the next read. The more one reads MacDonald, the more familiar one becomes with his primary themes, and the easier it is to follow their relations to each other, as well as to the books alluded to in the tale.

MacDonald points to these books not only to introduce them—he is also inviting the reader into a deeper conversation. As one reads the other books mentioned and then returns to MacDonald, suddenly one is part of a conversation that has been going on since God’s first story. MacDonald is responding to Tennyson responding to Blake responding to Dante, who in turn is responding to John responding to Christ, who is reminding us of the words of Isaiah, or the Psalms, or Moses. This conversation between texts is part of the Christian heritage, part of understanding who we are and who God is.

The episodic nature of Phantastes is sometimes off-putting to contemporary readers, and yet this structure is part of MacDonald’s effort to help the reader understand just how important that tradition of literary conversation can be. The 21-year-old protagonist Anodos is drawn into the realm of stories, Fairy Land, so that he may discover his own true identity. His education thus far has inspired “nobleness of thought, [but] not of deed,” and his understanding of love is selfishly immature. Each separate episode he enters is a story that slowly shapes and changes him.

Anodos learns not only from acting in these stories but also from reading them—his new education begins with books of “Fairy Land, and olden times, and the knights of King Arthur’s table.” As his journey continues he is drawn into drama, poetry, songs, dreams, dance, pictures, memories. And in these, he realizes, he is “the chief actor therein … for I took the place of the character who was most like myself, and his story was mine.” As the stories conclude and he awakes “to the consciousness” of his present life, he realizes that he has changed as a result—that he was, in fact, vicariously “buried and risen again in these old books.”

When Phantastes ends, a matured Anodos returns to his family and home “somewhat instructed, I hoped, by the adventures that had befallen me in Fairy Land. Could I translate the experience of my travels there, into common life? This was the question.” Not only the question for Anodos, but the one MacDonald places firmly before his readers.

C. S. Lewis wrote that a first read reveals the plot and characters; it is in the experience of rereading that we find wisdom and strength. But be forewarned; rereading Phantastes did change his life.

Sources and Resources

P. H. Brazier, C. S. Lewis—Revelation, Conversion, and Apologetics, vol. 1, C. S. Lewis: Revelation and the Christ (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012), 33–34.

Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, “Sacred Story,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 86: George MacDonald: Writer Who Inspired C.S. Lewis (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2005).

The Poetical Works of George MacDonald (2 vols., 1893). His romance, Lilith (1895), was ed. by G. MacDonald (son) (1924), with introd., pp. ix–xx. Letters, ed. G. E. Sadler (Grand Rapids, Mich. [1994]). C. S. Lewis (ed.), George MacDonald: An Anthology (1946). G. MacDonald (son), George MacDonald and his Wife (1924). R. L. Wolff, The Golden Key: A Study in the Fiction of George MacDonald (New Haven, Conn., 1961). K. Triggs, The Stars and the Stillness: A Portrait of George MacDonald (Cambridge, 1986). D. S. Robb, George MacDonald (Scottish Writers, 11; Edinburgh, 1987). W. Raeper, George MacDonald (Tring, Herts [1987]); E. Sainsbury, George MacDonald: A Short Life (Edinburgh, 1987). W. Raeper (ed.), The Golden Thread: Essays on George MacDonald (ibid., 1990). R. B. Shaberman, George MacDonald: A Bibliographical Study (Winchester, 1990). A. Matheson in DNB, 1901–1911, pp. 513–15.

F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1023.

Hein, Roland. The Harmony Within: The Spiritual Vision of George MacDonald. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982.
MacDonald, George. The Complete Fairy Tales. London: Penguin, 1999.
Manlove, C. N. “George MacDonald’s Fairy Tales: Their Roots in MacDonald’s Thought,” Studies in Scottish Literature 8:2. January 10, 1970. http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/ssl/vol8/iss2/12.
Phillips, Michael. George MacDonald. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1987.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Josephine R. Unglaub

Josephine R. Unglaub

Art: The Cloud Tellers

Josephine Unglaub is a German-based artist and photographer with a passion for surrealism. Her work can be found here: https://lemanshots.wordpress.com

Terry Glaspey

 

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!

Terry

Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.

The Creation by Franz Joseph Haydn (1798)

Distant Echo by Josephine R. Unglaub

THE CREATION
Franz Joseph Haydn

Now heav’n in fullest glory shone;
earth smiles in all her rich attire.
The room of air with fowl is fill’d,
the water swell’d by shoals of fish;
by heavy beasts the ground is trod.
But for all its glory, “the work was not complete.”
There wanted yet that wond’rous being,
that grateful should God’s pow’r admire,
with heart and voice his goodness praise.


Man is the pinnacle of creation because he alone is made in the image of God. This is sufficient to establish his worth, whether his esteem agrees or not.  There are many bright souls whose gifts are apparent and on display, and we reward these people with praise.  This works well as long as conditions are right, but unlike God, ours is a conditional love.  We are harsh and judgmental, beating each other down to a form where God’s image is barely recognizable.

This is where miracles occur.  The image of God is inextinguishable.  As John Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath

For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man — when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back. This you may say and know it and know it.

Franz Joseph Haydn was such a man

Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

Writing music never came as easily for Haydn as it did for his contemporary, Mozart, from whom great music seemed to pour effortlessly. Ever industrious, Haydn had to work hard throughout his life, disciplining himself to keep regular hours for composing every day. When inspiration failed to come, he would pray for God’s help.

The result of his hard work and his prayers is an almost bewilderingly large number of pieces of various kinds, which sustain a very high level of consistency in their quality. Haydn was one of the most productive composers in history because he was one of the hardest working. His output includes 104 symphonies, more than sixty-eight string quartets (these two forms he brought to a perfection never heard before), more than one hundred piano pieces, a dozen masses, and two dozen operas. His renown grew to the point where he was in demand throughout Europe, and he even spent a number of very productive years in England, where some of his most accomplished symphonies were written.

Those who knew Haydn were always struck by his geniality and kind nature, joyous embrace of life, and love of good food, good music, and good company. He loved to joke and play pranks on his friends, and this mischievousness shows itself in many of his compositions. He seemed to enjoy making audiences smile, and surprising them with the playfulness that he worked into the pieces. For his famous Surprise symphony (no. 94, 1791), he inserted a jarring chord meant to awaken any listeners who had been lulled to sleep. His Clock symphony (no. 101, 1793–94) has the stately beat of a pendulum clock, and La Poule (no. 83, 1785) imitates the sound of a clucking hen. When some church leaders criticized his music for not being serious enough, he replied, “God gave me a cheerful heart, so he will surely forgive me if I serve him cheerfully.”2 Mozart, with whom he shared a deep and lasting friendship, referred to him as “Papa Haydn,” and the name caught on with his admirers. When the younger Mozart died, Haydn grieved the loss deeply and spoke with unstinting praise of his talent. Theirs was a relationship of respect and admiration rather than competition.

His cheerfulness was not the result of his circumstances, for Haydn did not have an easy life. He experienced extreme poverty while trying to establish his musical career, he was married for forty years to a woman who showed no interest or appreciation for his music and was even known to roll up his written musical scores in order to use them to curl her hair, and he sometimes worked for patrons who treated him more like a slave than a man of genius. But through it all, the music he composed was a reflection of his personality: beautiful and orderly but also cheerful, joyous, and with a good bit of wit and humor.

How has the image of God emerged through your life?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R


The Creation

Franz Joseph Haydn

 

 

Franz Joseph Haydn

(1732–1809) Austrian composer; luminary of Western music of the classical era

In early life Haydn was a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He subsequently studied the theoretical works of Fux and Matthesohn and studied composition under Porpora. After having as patrons Baron K. J. Furnberg and Count F. M. Morzin, Haydn began service in the house of Prince Esterhazy, where he became first kapellmeister (chapelmaster) by 1766. Although Haydn had become wealthy, internationally known, and virtually independent by 1790, he remained in the service of the Esterhazys until his retirement in 1801. His contribution as composer of opera, symphonic, and chamber music is of the highest caliber, approaching that of Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Mozart.

Haydn’s music for the church spans nearly his whole career. He wrote fourteen masses, a Stabat Mater, two Te Deums, two major oratorios: The Creation (1798), his most popular choral work, and the secular The Seasons (1801). He also composed offertories, cantatas, and The Seven Last Words-originally seven instrumental sonatas written for the cathedral of Cadiz, later rescored as String Quartets, Op. 51 and as an oratorio with soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Among his best-known masses are the “Great Organ Mass” (Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1766), the St. Cecilia Mass (1770), the Mass in Time of War (1796), the “Lord Nelson Mass” (Missa in Angustiis, 1798), and the Harmony Mass (1802).

His techniques are of great historical importance. His uses of fugue, for example, often are symphonic in technique, while operatic influences come into many of his arias. Choral pieces are often written in sonata style, involving the contrasts and developments/recapitulations of instrumental music. His instrumental scorings are very interesting and colorful, particularly in uses of wind instruments.

The Creation

Fortunately, shortly before his composing days were over, Haydn was given a religious text that lent itself perfectly to his greatest gifts as a composer. While in England, inspired by Handel’s oratorios, he began to think of composing an oratorio. He asked his friend and colleague François Hippolyte Barthelemon for advice concerning a subject for an oratorio. Barthelemon picked up a Bible and said, “There, take that, and begin at the beginning” (Landon 4, p. 117). As it turned out, that is what Haydn did—quite coincidentally. Just before he left England, he received a libretto on the subject of the Creation written by an unknown English author who had probably intended it for Handel. We do not know why Handel did nothing with it—or even if he received it. It probably came to Haydn via Salomon. Haydn took the libretto with him back to Vienna. Baron van Swieten, who had first introduced Haydn to Handel’s oratorios back in the ’80s, was as enthusiastic as Haydn about the project. Swieten translated the original English libretto into German, and then, after Haydn had composed the music to the German text, he adapted the original English text to fit the music. The score was published in 1800 with both the German and English texts set to the music.

The Creation is divided into three parts. (See the Appendix for an outline of the entire oratorio.) Part I tells of the first four days of Creation, Part II of days five and six, and Part III of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The core text of Parts I and II comes from the Creation story in Genesis 1 and 2:7. Each day begins with a secco recitative in which one of the three soloists (each representing an angel) tells, directly from Genesis, what God did that day. Their proclamation of God’s creative act is followed by two types of response: first, amazed and delighted description (accompanied recitative or aria); then, grateful praise (chorus). Books VII and VIII of Milton’s Paradise Lost were the source of inspiration for some of the response texts, and nos. 12, 13, and 27 are from the Psalms. Although each day includes all three components—proclamation, description, and praise—the musical structure of each day varies considerably. Only the second and fourth days follow the “typical” structure of secco recitative (proclamation), accompanied recitative or aria (description), and chorus (praise).

Part I

Part I begins with one of Haydn’s greatest challenges—an instrumental depiction of chaos—which resulted in one of his greatest achievements. Just as the disordered elements in the dark void struggled for form before God spoke, so do the empty C octave at the beginning and the disordered musical elements that follow struggle for sonata form and the “light” of C major tonality. Both the cosmic and the musical struggle are futile until God speaks a creative word: “Let there be light.” The blazing C major chord on “light” is the greatest surprise in all of Haydn’s music, just as light devouring darkness at God’s word was the greatest surprise in the creation story.

The telling of God’s act on Day One is followed by an aria with chorus in which description and praise are combined. The tune the choir sings on the words “A new created world” is one of Haydn’s simplest, and yet most profound. Like Donald Tovey “I am proud to ally myself with the company of persons who are as completely bowled over by it as by anything in Bach’s B minor Mass.”

Day Two illustrates the “typical” structure, and Day Three follows with what might be called a double version of the typical structure: act—description/act—description—praise. The double structure is due to the two parts of God’s act on that day—the creation of bodies of water and dry land. In addition Day Three has a recitative that introduces the chorus of praise. Day Four follows, again with the typical structure. Although Haydn gave it no special structure, he did underscore its special position as the end of Part I by framing it with two of the highlights of the oratorio—the orchestral depiction of the sunrise at the beginning, and at the end, the splendid and ever-popular chorus celebrating cosmic order, “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” The chorus not only concludes Day Four; it is also the climax of praise that marks the end of the creation of inanimate things.

Part II

Both of the days in Part II have variants of the double structure. Day Five has the creation of fish and birds, but there is a different reason for its double structure. God’s words on this day include the command, “Be fruitful.” So Haydn omitted description of the fish. Instead he composed an arioso for God’s words (uniquely scored for violas I and II, cellos I and II, and string basses). That is followed by an introduction to a trio in which the angel soloists contemplate God’s work prior to the angelic chorus of praise.

The sixth day—the creation of animals and humans—has the most elaborate structure of all for two reasons: it includes the creation of humans, and it meditates on the whole of God’s “glorious work.” So after the description of animals (no. 21) there is another aria (no. 22) that briefly summarizes the whole and introduces the creation of Adam.

Now heav’n in fullest glory shone;
earth smiles in all her rich attire.
The room of air with fowl is fill’d,
the water swell’d by shoals of fish;
by heavy beasts the ground is trod.

But for all its glory, “the work was not complete.”

There wanted yet that wond’rous being,
that grateful should God’s pow’r admire,
with heart and voice his goodness praise.

After this introduction, the creation of Adam is presented in the normal pattern of proclamation (no. 23) and description (no. 24), but the third component, praise, is enlarged considerably. First, it is preceded by an introductory recitative (no. 25), which turns our attention back to the whole with the words from Genesis 1:31—“And God saw ev’ry thing that he had made; and behold, it was very good,” and an allusion to Job 38:7—“and the heav’nly choir, in song divine, clos’d the sixth day.” This is followed by the expected chorus of praise. But there is more. After the chorus, the three angels meditate on God’s power and mercy in the words of Psalm 104:27–30. Then the angel chorus returns with the previous chorus’s words and music (“Achieved is the glorious work”). But soon the chorus goes on to a glorious climax with new words (“Glory to his name forever”) and new music (a mighty fugue).

Part III

The story from Genesis 1 finished, the librettist turned to Books IV and V of Paradise Lost for the picture of Adam and Eve in Eden in Part III. With just six numbers, it is by far the shortest of the three parts. It has a double structure like the fifth and sixth days, but God’s glorious work has already been completed, so the first component of the pattern, God’s act, is missing. Instead it begins with an accompanied recitative whose function is both descriptive and introductory. As usual in Haydn’s descriptive recitatives, the orchestra depicts the words instrumentally before they are sung. Here a ravishingly beautiful flute trio accompanied by pizzicato strings depicts the “rosy mantle” of “morning young and fair” and the “pure harmony” that descends “from the celestial vaults” upon the newly created earth. Then the recitative (sung by Uriel) turns our attention to the “blissful pair” who will utter “a louder praise of God,” and invites all the angels to join them: “Then let our voices ring, united with their song!” Indeed they do! Adam and Eve, the angel choir, and all creation join in singing what Tovey called the greatest movement that Haydn ever wrote!

After this one cannot help but think the rest can only be anti-climactic and superfluous. It may be anti-climactic, but it is not superfluous. The human creature is unique in all creation. Genesis points out that uniqueness by telling us not only that Adam was created out of the dust of the earth on the same day as the animals, but also that God breathed into him the breath of life and made him in God’s own image. For want of better terminology, we can say that human nature has a “high” and a “low” aspect, provided we do not denigrate the “low.” Like everything else, God pronounced it good. So the next two numbers complete the picture of the human creature by showing its “low” aspect. Adam and Eve now sing by themselves to each other, not, as in their previous duet, to God with the angels. Their music is correspondingly “lower”—more earthy and folksy—without any suggestion that “lower” somehow falls outside of that which God pronounced good.

Theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote that Genesis “recognizes our earthy, beastly side.” If The Creation ended with the great duet and chorus (no. 30), it would have presented a one-sided view of humans as (in Thielicke’s words) “a spiritual being who somehow hovers above all that is creaturely.” But by going on to nos. 31 and 32, it affirms the biblical view that “the whales, the sparrows, and Homo sapiens are all created together on the same sixth day of creation and thus included in a whole.” Therefore the “struggle of nature also determines our human life, that we too are controlled by instincts and urges, needs and desires, just as are the birds and the beasts of the field.” Haydn said and believed that “an infinite God would surely have mercy on his finite creature, pardoning dust for being dust.” And he added, “These thoughts cheer me,” just as Thielicke said he was cheered “beyond all measure” that “the Lord’s Prayer does not pretend that we are only religious people, but that we have the urge to eat—again like the animals—that we must have our daily ration of bread.”

The picture of humanity completed, a final chorus of praise is in order. But first a small recitative precedes it—not to introduce it, but to give listeners a warning, a much-needed warning at a time when there was much “enlightened” optimism about human nature.

O happy pair, and always happy yet,
if not misled by false conceit,
ye strive at more, as granted is,
and more to know, as know ye should.

Sources and Resources

D.S. Cushman, “Haydn, Franz Joseph,” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 305–306.

Calvin R. Stapert, Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 237–241.

Greenburg, Robert. Haydn: His Life and Music. DVD. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2000.
Hogwood, Christopher, Emma Kirby, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and Michael George. Haydn—The Creation: Orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music. DVD. Directed by Chris Hunt. London: Decca Classics, 2007.
Stapert, Calvin R. Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

 

Josephine R. Unglaub

 

Josephine R. Unglaub
Josephine R. Unglaub

Art: Distant Echo

Josephine Unglaub is a German-based artist and photographer with a passion for surrealism. Her work can be found here: https://lemanshots.wordpress.com

 

 

Terry Glaspey

 

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!

Terry

Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.

Until it Happens To You

untitledTHE CRACK-UP
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work-the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside-the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within-that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.


In 54 AD the Roman Emperor Claudius died an excruciating death after suffering for twelve hours from poison slipped into his food by Agrippina, his fourth wife (who was also his niece – the mother of that sweet boy Nero). The ongoing soap opera that was ancient Rome has been rich fodder for literature, including the popular I, Claudius by Robert Graves. Even today, anytime someone is brought down by disaster, that person’s demise becomes the crowd’s entertainment.  Just watch the nightly news and your blood lust can be satisfied by everything from horrific car wrecks to global war.  Let’s hear from that person whose house just burned down!

It’s all entertainment until it happens to you.

The sad irony is that we are all fractured by life sooner or later. Some people flame out epically like a Roman emperor, but most people suffer quietly from the disappointments and loss that are inevitable to all of us.  If there is an upside to this universal frailty, it is in our overwhelming need to love each other.  This truth is so powerful, it was the single thing Jesus called out as the earmark of His followers. He said the world will know we are His by the love we have for each other.

Be kind today

IMG_0181John 13:34-35

A new command I give you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Literature & Liturgy: Man of Sorrows

כָּאַב (kāʾab). vb. to be in pain, cause pain. Refers to being in a state of physical or mental pain or anguish.

This verb occurs several times along with its related noun, (כְּאֵב, kĕʾēb), to denote physical pain (e.g., Gen 34:25; Job 14:22) or mental anguish (e.g., Psa 69:29). The pain associated with the term often results from disappointment or disaster.

The notion of mental anguish is captured in Prov 14:13—“Even in laughter the heart may be in pain (יִכְאַב, yikʾab).” The related noun מַכְאוֹב (makʾôb) represents a more intense term for pain and suffering. When Israel suffers in slavery in Egypt, God sees their sufferings (מַכְאֹבָי, makʾōbāy; Exod 3:7). Job is racked with pain (מַכְאוֹב, makʾôb) on his bed (Job 33:19). This is the term used of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh to describe him as a “man of sorrows” who also bears “our sorrows” (Isa 53:3–4).

“He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:3–4, NKJV)

The “man of sorrows” of Isa. 53:5 is Jesus Christ. Christ himself understood his mission in the light of the servant’s atonement through suffering and patient endurance, and the early Church reinforced the connection. The description of the Passion and death of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels is colored by references to the “servant songs” (e.g., Matt. 8:17; Mark 15:28; John 19:9).

In his sermon of 1 July 1627 John Donne refers to Christ as the type of all sorrow: “who fulfil’d in himselfe alone, all Types, and Images, and Prophecies of sorrowes, who was, (as the Prophet calls him) Vir dolorum, a man compos’d, and elemented of sorrowes.” In another sermon (25 Aug. 1622) Donne asks that he himself be allowed to “be vir dolorum, a man of affliction, a vessell baked in that furnace, fitted by God’s proportion, and dosis of his corrections, to make a right use of his corrections.” In “Palm Sunday,” Henry Vaughan writes of “the man of sorrow / Weeping still, like the wet morrow,” who “comes to borrow” the “shades and freshness” of palm branches on his entrance into Jerusalem.

Melville takes quite a different approach when referring to the suffering servant in Moby-Dick: Ishmael suggests “that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true—not true, or undeveloped. … The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows.” Yeats’s “The Sad Shepherd” contains echoes of, if not direct references to, the man of sorrows in its description of “a man whom Sorrow named his friend” and who, because he was not listened to, could not be rid of the “ancient burden” of his “heavy story.” Joyce, in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (chap. 3), makes more traditional use of the image, as Stephen considers the contrast between the humiliation of the first advent and the glory of the Second Coming.

Other echoes from the “servant songs” occur in a variety of English texts. Wordsworth, in “Maternal Grief,” speaks of a small boy whose twin sister has died as suddenly “acquainted with distress and grief ” (Isa. 53:3). In his “Stanzas to Augusta [B]” Byron echoes the same passage: “Thy soul with my grief was acquainted. …” Perhaps the most influential use of the man of sorrows motif, however, is Handel’s magnificent setting of the final servant song in his Messiah.

Sources & Resources

Emmet, C. W. “Sorrow, Man of Sorrows.” In A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels. Ed. J. Hastings (1908), 2.665-68;

McKenzie, J. L., ed. Second Isaiah. AB 20 (1968);

North, C. R. The Suffering Servant in Deutero-Isaiah (1956);

Smalley, B. The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages (1952; rpt. 1964).

David L. Jeffrey, A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992).

Hill, Craig, “Suffering,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexha

Art: On Air by Josephine R. Unglaubm

Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).