Thursday, 12 April 2012


[to Kristen] 

What is adulthood?
It is many things, but not
knee scrapes, shoe strings,
not paper crown kings,
not stone flinging shot-slings.

And slippery! Hands are troubled to cling 
to objects enduring,
(save, maybe to worrying
for what sunrise could bring.) 

Moreover, it gives so many once-held things
In pairs!
And dares it to pare 
bonded things
together once weld' 
in rings. 

Others, still, it weds.
No matter how foe-like,
it beds 
No matter how it stings.

[It is when the having of an ordinary joy
becomes a skill,
even an art of the mind]


My present joy,
Like a winged grasshopper 
in a July day field.

To you the tall grasses are grossly tall.
I see you leap, span wings, and fall
haphazardly to ground below.

Everything is large to you and up and close.
When the wind blows, it blows;
the sun almost too greatly shines;
the dew drop really glows.

The black bird can snatch you up in a blink!
How fast the link
to life is cut.

Your little life is spent looking, is it not? 
You have a season
to befriend the trees once,
maybe for a mate to hunt
a victory to flaunt,
defy an ought,
But you’ve not 
the reason.

For you, to live is to see- to search
to keep the mouth full- to chirp
into the wind.

I watch from afar,
aware of all the out-about dangers that befall
your kind.

I can not help.

Come I near
your wings’ll span with fear
and you’ll flutter away.
I’ll have to turn my back
til you come back.
(I hope you do.)

You will.

jordan dejonge

Saturday, 7 April 2012

On the Death of God

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed.
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And bold imposing facade are all being rolled away-
Or, as when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between
[East Coker]

On Holy Saturday, God lies dead in the tomb. Exposed and weak, he had cried out on the cross with a cry of abandonment, maybe even despair. With most of his friends having forsaken him, he gave up his spirit. 

Yes, it is true, in John's Gospel he more soberly states, "it is finished".But what is finished is the humiliation of God and therefore the transformation of the very idea of God. The curtain has been rent in two. In a sense, God has profaned Himself, because He is pushed outside the centrality which we  claim for him and is identified with the peripheral. All can be included in Jesus because Jesus does not stand as king at the centre, on the Throne in the Hall, but wades through the spiralled throngs of hierarchy until he  stands at the outermost edge where he is made a thing despised, rejected and stricken. This is the scandal that other Abrahamic traditions have never understood, unable as they are to see the divinity in the symmetry between the God above our heads in unimaginable glory and the God crushed under the Roman boot; the God of the visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah on the moving chariot-throne, radiating a holiness that forces even the Seraphim to close their eyes, and the God whose bloodied and observable countenance forces the women to close their eyes in grief. The exalted and the despised are, together, one God. The centre is equivocated with the edge.  Those who can not see the beauty in this, or are not even moved by the faintest stir of curiosity, are lacking in a creative appreciation of thought. 

In considering this symmetry, the  highest point of heaven is drawn into one single shape with the lowest point of Hades, and precisely from the equivocation of these two is the outpouring of Spirit, if I understand this correctly. The old image of the Holy Mass comes to mind. The Father-king  holding the outstretched arms of the Crucified dead son beneath him; the small Dove hovering over this scene as a kind of perplexing extra-- far more obscure as signifier. 

Jesus, a historical man, in secular time is killed by the powers of the saeculum. And this event within the saeculum is lifted up like the serpent in the desert, raised above as the  "time of origins"- yet now founded within profane time itself rather than its cause. 

This gives Christianity its dynamism and, for me, its irrestible appeal. 


In the course of readings that I've been pursuing lately, much is being made or has been made of the death of God. And I have to admit that these theories interest me and have some clout. 

A number of weeks ago, wandering the streets of Toronto late at night, there was a middle aged, very obese man in a motor wheel chair crossing the street. From his voice, he was a bit of a flaming queen. He ran into someone with his wheel chair, and said, "Oh, sorry honey, God bless you", then quickly added with shrill laughter "What am I saying, there's no God!" [hand flick]. (Think in the vein of Roger the alien from American Dad.)

I can't tell you how disturbing this moment was for me. I was raised to look at handicapped people through the lens of the "preferential option". God's love was always more intense for the disadvantaged. Naturally, one thinks of the disadvantaged as the most in need of the feeling of God's love (though people like Jean Vanier have well testified that they are so often our teachers). So to have someone not privileged, someone not evidently well off or on the top of the social ladder proclaim God's death with such coldness felt incredibly dark.  But it continues to spur my thinking. 

As perhaps some of you know, I've come to the conviction that belief is shared, that it, along with the holy, is a category of social experience. Not simply the doubting of the neighbour, but his refusal to inhabit the world in which doubt and faith interact, is a disbelieving presence that neuters the power of my own prayer [as per the opening of Tarkovsky's Nostalgia] . We will either condemn him with rage in order to re-animate our prayer, or separate ourselves from him (which perhaps amounts to the same thing). But both of these options seem untenable today. 

As I see it, Christianity in the West is at a cross roads that is unlike any previous stage of its history. Yes, the Christian Church was at one time a sect in a pagan world. It is quickly on its way to becoming sectarian once more. But the conditions for belief are not at all the same. Whereas the early Christians could appeal to the Greek cosmos and the imagination of the Roman world, Christians today are often dealing with a different imaginary in a society of very different political and social relationships. Belief is, in many cases, impossible in the sense of how it came naturally to our ancestors, or even my grandparents and parents. In my opinion, it is quite often feigned or, at least, consistently haunted by a dissonance generated  by daily participation in a dis-embeded, uprooted and disenchanted world. There is really no hope for Christianity in the West unless it is willing to look at the conditions of belief itself, which I believe will inevitably turn us toward the dynamics of the community and our experience of "the other" within it. As scary as this may be, life for the community is the basic command of the Christian religion. Mandatum novum do vobis…

All of this is illustrated best in behaviours associated with the concept of the holy. As I know it, the holy is never more real than when I experience it in the throng of a crowd. Walking solemnly towards the altar of sacrifice, with the looming Cross laid out for veneration and Allegri's "Miserere Mei" - this is the summation image of everything ever entrusted to me from birth as holy- I am filled with something that is beyond words, because I am participating in something that is beyond time and beyond fragile individualities.  But how much the more when, upon returning to the pew, I can see the hundreds of people walking in their own silence, in the middle of their own prayer, with some of their own faces streaked with tears. Without them, without the crowd, the Catholic holy becomes its own desperate parody. This is why I do believe the pressing onwards to "full inward participation", in both the liberal and conservative sense, is ultimately destructive to traditional Catholicism because it is, in effect, a dis-embedding force. The usages of religion have proved to a great many that the Church and formal religion are not necessary to accomplish the goals they lay out. That is to say, the well ordered life. The irrelevance of religion to many today is actually a sign of its own success, internalized to the point of disappearance.  The Right argues less and less for the existence of God directly, and more and more for Him on the basis of the supposed necessity of the idea for the sake of the well-ordered society. But this just proves what has happened by the very terms of the debate, and constitutes a dare to the secular world to prove that we can have morality, beauty and meaning without religion. 

Should it really be taken as tangential that here, today, we can not really parade the Blessed Sacrament through the street? Or a statue of Mary? Or, that when such things are done and we can see crowds busily moving like a fish feeding frenzy- just to get a piece of contact with God-  these crowds are generally not white Westerners? (And if they are, they are young (gay?) men with half-a foot in seminary?). Doesn't this tell us that "the holy", as Catholics have traditionally experienced it, is completely tied to the operation of a logic found within the community life, and so does not live and work independently from it? 

Though I believe He is still heard in the corners, there is a great silence of God in these times. This is expressed in the utter incomprehension of the majority of members of my generation to see the relevance of the concept of God for their lives. On the other hand, I am convinced reactionary fundamentalisms aimed at recovering the old world of belief only deepens this incomprehension. 

If it appears God has left us, if it appears God has broken with us, I think it must be because we have broken our communion with one another in some sense. Perhaps this is the darker side of the gains of political life in the last centuries. 

Each like a sheep has gone astray
Each has gone his own way...

Yet we know that the world is groaning to be repaired, and so the work of religion can not be over, if the purpose of religion is indeed to hold us together, lifting us into what is beyond our own selves, and not just an individual path for a life lived rightly. 

God is in the tomb. He is dead, but death can not keep him. He will rise, transfigured, changed. Isn't faith following this path, even if we don't know in advance what his rising will be like? 

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God. As in a theatre,
The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed.
With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of darkness on darkness,
And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama
And bold imposing facade are all being rolled away-
Or, as when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between

Friday, 6 April 2012

Holy Wound

O tenderly worded palm inscribed;
the hand that bleeds is the hand that guides;
crushed, the finger pointing to hallowed skies;
from none, 
from one, 
from her, from all derived           tenderly;
O wounded palm, I'll touch Thy blood to doubt.

skin tethered, en-skinned text;
the word spoken speaks, blesses, is blest;
presses palm to heart, prays, is prayed, is pressed;
laments, is lamented, suffers, comes to rest.

from above
from blood,
for blood;
from flesh 
to flesh to give;
Life taking up life, 
to die to live.
to wound the Wound 
to mend It;
forsaken of grace 
to send it;
deprived of aid 
to lend it;
succumbed to sorrow
to fend it
at last away and forever. 

O tenderly worded palm inscribed
by Adam's deed,
by Eve's vale-low cries;
from love, for love
from the Father,
with the Dove,
Take my palm in thine 
and glove 
it with thine own.

jordan dejonge