Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Splitting the Infinite

Words are my toys. I like to brazenly make mountains out of molehills, to perilously snowboard their verbose slopes, to secretly spelunk their cavernous underbellies. Most of all, I like to gleefully split infinitives.

My English teacher used to always tell me that, someday, I was going to seriously regret splitting infinitives. To constantly split infinitives, she told me, was to wantonly commit an act against nature, and the Universe would find some way to properly exact judgment against me.

I didn't believe her. 

Not until today.

While trying to again split an infinitive, I accidentally split the Infinite.

He is, after all, the Word.

I was expecting to really see something spectacular, like an eclipse accompanied by large chunks of the Earth succumbing to centrifugal force, or storms with surges larger than Al Gore's ego, or perhaps Elvis having cheeseburgers with Jimmy Hoffa sans Quikrete. Turns out I was to sadly be disappointed. Instead, I found in my living room, in my recliner no less, a guy who looked a lot like Armin Shimerman, if Armin had a beard and slightly larger ears. He sat with his hands tented, and a brief smile playing in the clearing of his lower face.

"Well, " He said, "Your English teacher DID warn you."

I had to quickly choose between conflicting urges at this point: having a fair idea who this was, the urge to prostrate was strong; but, regardless of my respect for Shimerman's work, the idea of kneeling at his feet was somewhat absurd to me. I opted for hospitality.

"Would you like some bread and wine?" I asked, offering what I had handy. I used to normally have sardines as well, but had already consumed my daily quota.

His smile broadened. "I could ask you the same thing," He chuckled, "And I think you may need it more than I do right now."

For the sake of doing something, I poured us each a glass and proceeded to gingerly hand Him His. He raised His glass. "L'Chaim!"

"To you, " I replied, and drained my glass. I sat back down in my writing chair.

With my nerves steeled, I tried to preemptively rectify the situation. "I need to really..."

He cut me off. "I don't believe that you understand yet what you have done," He said. "What you need is to begin again."

With my eyes still on Him I nervously lifted my glass to drain it again. This did nothing to help my courage, since there was almost as little wine left in the glass as coherent thought in my head. I saw my water bottle on the desk and picked it up instead, taking a swig of some of the best wine I've ever had, and choking. In an instant He was up and smacking my back, concern and a slight giggle in His voice. "You're OK? That one never gets old for me, you know. Old Abe at the wedding," He shook his head in pleasant reverie. "Good times."

He handed the bottle back to me. I glanced up at Him and sniffed before I tentatively sipped again. He returned to my recliner, and I started over.

"What I think I did, Lord - May I call you "Lord"?" He acquiesced with a brief wave that straitened the pictures on the wall, "- is that I think I broke the cables that bind space and time, and everything will begin to sud - um, to fall suddenly into decay and chaos." I sat back in my chair waiting for the blast.

It was a blast of laughter. When David mentioned the "laughing to scorn," he didn't mention how that affected the scorned. When others think you're a fool, you can content yourself with the assumption they're wrong. This laughter accepts that you're a fool, assumes that you know that, too, and then makes you reject yourself as a fool, willingly and with no other option. This isn't the maniacal laughter of the villain, or the derisive laughter of the one who takes pleasure in the fall of others. This was the knee-slapping hilarity that ensues when an inside joke is shared, and which ends in wiping away tears of merriment and arms around one another's shoulders. I'm serious, there was actual knee-slapping. He leaned forward and lightly punched my shoulder.

"Buck up there, Buddy - May I call you "Buddy"?" I have no idea what my face said, but He continued. "Philip, then. No biggie here, Phil." He patted my shoulder again. "Does everything look likes it's coming to pieces to you?"

I looked around. My mother couldn't have cleaned the place up like it was now, the stars were visible even with the apartment lights on, and there were sardines next to the bread. "I'll be goddamned!"

He laughed again. "No, see, that's the point here. You won't be goddamned. Not by me, anyhow. There's only two of us that can do that, and I refuse to God damn you. I suggest that you refrain from doing so as well."

"So," I said. "No chaos then? There seemed to have been last time."

"No, no chaos then, either." He shook His head. "See, the first time someone intentionally tried to split the Infinite, he failed dismally, moved here, and began teaching others to try also. The difference with these others (your ancestors, in case you hadn't guessed, and other extended family members) was that they actually contained the Infinite. As each sought a piece for himself, he obtained it. The Infinite was split."

A realization dawned on me. "I didn't do anything particularly special, did I? Splitting the Infinite."

"Accolade and garland special, no. Short-bus special, on the other hand..." He grinned. "See, the Infinite isn't something to be grasped, until it's handed to you. It's the attempt to steal it for yourself that cuts you off, that makes what you have finite and temporary."

We both reflected for a moment. "So, if I split the Infinite, the Infinite splits?" There's no good time to pass up a bad pun. We both smiled, He more broadly than I.

"For the Infinite to be, it has to be everything, so the situation had to be remedied. Otherwise, the situation you were afraid you caused would be the current one. That which had been separated had to be restored. The pieces had to be without separation or confusion. They had to be freely given and received. When they were freely given, the splitting that occurred was the cause of what you assumed to be chaos the last time."

"Splitting doesn't always break things?"

"Of course not," He said. "Try giving of yourself sometime."

I passed the bread and fish and poured another glass of the the excellent vintage for each of us - no matter how much nose a wine has, it doesn't taste right out of a water bottle. While I masticated, He continued.

"There was a lot of splitting that day, and I don't mean the disciples!" He joked. "My body, the veil, the graves; and it was all part of setting things right, drawing them all together, making one new man out of two."

"What I did is all taken care of, then?" I asked Him. "Is there something I have to go and do?"

"My son, " He said as He rose from my recliner and reached out His open hand to me. I found myself finally on the floor at the feet of Armin Shimerman. "Go, and split no more." He disappeared. His voice returned for one last word. "Also, have some bread and wine."

He split. I plan not to do so again.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Hart of the Morning - Memories of a Song by the Spectator's of Christ's Passion

The Hart of the Morning

For three long hours a darkness that could be felt pressed down on the land. Those who came only to see what they could see left those who came to love and those whose duty it was to look. The hillside was still as death. From a dying man, the necrotic darkness was ripped in two by a sob, “My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me”

Shock of sound passed, galvanizing some to speculation, others to memory.

Memory of a song called, “The Hart of the Morning.”

Appropriate for a man who had been hunted by human dogs before he could run.

His mother Mary remembered. She had all these things hidden in her heart.

“Why art Thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 0 my God, I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.”

The tumultuous time before the nativity: the private wedding; the sidelong looks; the shared joy with Elizabeth; the move to Bethlehem; the stable...

The shared joy with Elizabeth. “But Thou art holy, 0 Thou that inhabitest the praise of Israel. Our fathers trusted in Thee: they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were delivered: they trusted in Thee, and were not confounded.” She remembered how clear it all seemed then: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”

“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men and despised of the people.” Lifting her head from her tear stained hands, Mary Magdalene fixed eyes of love on the one who bore reproach on her account, reproach she justly deserved. “A friend of sinners!” they jeered. “If He knew what kind of woman she is . . .”

He knew. And she knew what kind of man He was.

“All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver him: let Him deliver him, seeing he delighted in Him”

The thief drew in a quick, painful breath. The scorn he had cast in the teeth of this man, who had not defended Himself, but begged God’s mercy on His murderers and maligners, cut him to the heart. The things of God which he had been taught as a child flooded his mind. “But Thou art He that took me out of the womb: Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.”

Help was here, hanging on a cross. “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.”

“Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.”

The Syrian conscript’s ears perked up as he listened to the mother of the man on the cross. The Jewish folk song she was singing mentioned his home!

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. . .” The thud of the dropping cross reverberated in his ears. “My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” With a glance at the dying man, the centurion sent a boy for vinegar, a sponge, and a stick. “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.” For the first time, the centurion recognized the condition of the crucified. He stared at this one who could endure such agony, and yet curse no one, least of all the Gentile dogs who spiked Him to the pole. “They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” The centurion dropped the robe draped over his arm. Prophecy fulfilled! This was the King of the Jews;
“Truly this was the Son of God!”

“But be not far from me, 0 Lord: 0 my strength, haste Thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth: for Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”

The disciple whom Jesus loved stood between his mother and the mother of his Lord. He stood among his kinsfolk, but his heart hung torn and broken on a cross above. The roar of own rending sobs was stilled by a loving labored voice. The dying Son of Man was giving His last bequest. “Woman,” He spoke breathlessly but tenderly to His mother, “Behold your son.” To John, gasping but firm, “Behold your mother.” John looked at the weeping mother of our Lord and saw that the destroyed devoted heart he had given to Jesus was wholly healed in the hands of His mother. “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.”

“Ye that fear the Lord, praise Him; all the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye seed of Israel. For He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath He hid His face from Him; but when he cried unto Him, He heard.”

Nicodemus’ mind recalled the fear he had regarding his Messiah: the midnight foray to the Rabbi, his timid confession of faith to his friend Joseph, his affliction at his failure to confront the folly of the Sanhedrin, his refraint from consent to Christ’s death but retreat from glory of God’s Son. But he cried unto the Savior; the Savior beheld him; he was accepted in the Beloved; he was born from above.

“My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear Him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek Him: Your heart shall live forever.”

At Nicodemus’ side, Joseph of Arimithea considered what he must do. He had made a vow, and he would not go back. He paced the way to Pilate’s palace to seek his Lord’s body. He and Nicodemus would prepare it and place it in a tomb Joseph had planned for himself. He would never need it. His rich businesses would be sold and his goods distributed. His meat would be to do the will of Him Who sent him. His body would die on foreign soil, but his heart would live forever.

“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and He is Governor among the nations.”

A young rabbi looked dispassionately at the dying man. New to the Sanhedrin, he was already considered a “Pharisee of the Pharisees.” Zealous for the Law, he applied the next phrase of the long-past memorized psalm to the blasphemer hung on the tree: “All they that be fat upon the earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before Him: and none can keep alive his own soul.” He did not yet know that he soon would be committed to the resurrected Son of God against the day of judgment; and that he would see himself as a dead man, the chief of sinners, unable to keep alive his own soul; and that he, Saul of Tarsus, would be used by God to finish the song: “A seed shall serve Him; it shall be ac counted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.”

written by Kenneth A 0’Shaughnessy, 1996

Thursday, May 2, 2013

God My All - Song of Ascents

I will serve him with my all
Following each of his commands
Waiting for his every call
He protects me as I serve
And he is all the hope I have
I am my gracious master's slave
My gracious master's slave

I am a steward of God the giver
He entrusts me with his grace
Strengthening me for all my labour
Wiping each tear from my face
He gives me his heritage
Blessings for a future time
All that I have is his not mine
All is his not mine

I am a son of God my Father
And will grow up in his home
Resting wrapped up in his arms
Working his will and not my own
All I want is what he gives
To worship him is why I live
I am a child of God my all
A child of God my all

I serve my gracious Father
With all he's given me
And I rest from all my labour
With his arms surrounding me

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

All His Servants - Psalm 133 (134)

PSALM 133 (134)
A song of ascents.

         Behold now, bless ye the Lord,
all ye servants of the Lord,
which stand in the house of the Lord,
even in the courts of the house of our God.
         Lift up your hands by night unto the sanctuary,
and bless the Lord.
         The Lord that made heaven and earth
bless thee out of Sion.

Praise the Lord all his servants
You watchmen in the night
Lift your hands in his worship
Holding forth his holy light
And the Lord the Creator
Of all things in his sight
Will bless you from Jerusalem

-Praise the Lord, you servants of the Lord (repeat, fade)