Sunday, December 04, 2011

Cold Comfort

This morning I came close to liturgical despair. If I hadn't been sitting in the stalls I might have left. The beauty of Palestrina was shattered by the cack-handed words with which we were assaulted.

First off, there was this abomination from the NRSV:


Comfort, O comfort my people,
 says your God. 
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
 and cry to her
 that she has served her term,
 that her penalty is paid,
 that she has received from the Lord’s hand
 double for all her sins.

A voice cries out: 
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
 make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be lifted up,
 and every mountain and hill be made low; 
the uneven ground shall become level,
 and the rough places a plain. 
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
 and all people shall see it together,
 for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’
 And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
 All people are grass,
 their constancy is like the flower of the field. 
The grass withers, the flower fades,
 when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
 surely the people are grass. 
The grass withers, the flower fades;
 but the word of our God will stand for ever.

Get you up to a high mountain,
 O Zion, herald of good tidings;
 lift up your voice with strength,
 O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
 lift it up, do not fear;
 say to the cities of Judah,
 ‘Here is your God!’ 
See, the Lord God comes with might,
 and his arm rules for him;
 his reward is with him,
 and his recompense before him. 
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
 he will gather the lambs in his arms,
 and carry them in his bosom,
 and gently lead the mother sheep.


'Here is your God'—here is a parking place; here is your iPod; here is your manicure. If ever the 'beholds' were needed to convey the sense of a biblical passage, it is the three that occur in this passage in the Hebrew in verses 9 and 10. KJV is good about the beholds, for the most part:


Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lords hand double for all her sins.

(3) The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

(6) The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

(9) O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
 Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.


Next, we were told what was in the Gospel before the gospel was read, as if we might be too stupid to listen for ourselves. I can't imagine any better way to get people to tune out than to infantilize them, than to tell them what the passage is going to say before it says it. The whole point of scripture is that it is to fall upon the ear and work the earth of the heart so that the individual receives what he or she needs.

All of this was bad enough, but the worst was to come. The celebrant used Eucharistic Prayer F, which demands a credal affirmation from the congregation after each paragraph, 'Amen. Lord, we believe'.

The eucharistic prayer is supposed to take us into silence, not into the noisy language of concepts. To put this in McGilchrist's terms, it's supposed to activate the right hemisphere's predominance, not the left. Credal statements are political attempts to force uniformity: they didn't work in the Empire—in fact, they brought more division—, and they don't work now.

Just to top everything off, on Monday there will be Compline—with an address! How utterly inappropriate. Compline is about turning the mind off in preparation for sleep, not about assaulting it with more spoken words. The chant reaches far more primitive areas of the brain; it is the church's lullaby, if you will.

For God's sake—literally—will someone please wake these people up?????


Blogger it's margaret said...

oh dear....

...but, even The LORD himself couldn't wake 'em up!

Much love to you dear sister.

7:41 pm, December 04, 2011  
Anonymous Phil Chong said...

Oh Maggie

Oh do I know exactly what you mean!

The 'dazzling darkness' cannot  be found in the Christian scriptures; awakened understanding cannot be found by devoting ourselves to this study. This is like longing to find clear fresh water in dry bones. We need to return to the present moment, using our clear mind which exists right here and now, we can be in touch with the kingdom of God, heaven on earth, as well as with the Christ and the Desert Fathers as living realities right in this moment. The ' immediate apperception of reality' as Cook- describes it (late action logics: 'Ironists' only account for 1% of the population, so you will struggle to meet many like minded souls ;-) 

On the brain front, rather than McGilchrist I prefer Rupert Sheldrake's construction of reality, he frames it as a mind field anchored in the brain; just as a magnetic field is anchored in the magnet. But then that construction of  'reality' is merely one of many possible framings...



3:49 am, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Actually, Phil, the dazzling darkness CAN be found in scripture; it's just that the model of the mind that is in the Desert Fathers was suppressed by the Church in the 15th century and so all the translations are skewed by the filters of Cartesianism, positivism, Freudianism, etc.

I like Sheldrake's model too, but McGilchrist's is easier to use in academic papers.

Behold, the kingdom of heaven is within us.

Thanks for writing

5:47 am, December 05, 2011  
Anonymous Phil Chong said...

ha ha ok then Maggie,=) so do you find the cake in the recipe? Isn't it an injunction, as Wittgenstein taught us in the Tractatus; a set of instructions, do this and you will discover this; Christ (en-Christing) is the process he taught.

Which is why the Gospel went viral and spread like wildfire.

But prehaps we could discuss this over tea and cake in Oxford, in St Mary's cafe before it shuts for five months;

this was the promise i made in Hay that im still awaiting to fulfill.



ps an academic and an Anglican, thats a heavy load! Jeez!

For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light

11:07 am, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

You're on! Send me your email (I won't publish it) and we'll make a time. Put DO NOT PUBLISH at the top!

4:34 pm, December 05, 2011  
Blogger Wintersong said...

I am relieved to find that I am not completely alone in resenting the NRSV readings! Thank you.

10:33 pm, December 10, 2011  
Blogger Habashi said...

Thank God for another soul who is aware of the utter banality and flatness of that NRSV. I refuse to regard it as a translation.

12:48 pm, June 26, 2012  

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