Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dark is the night

During my first semester of seminary a painting hung in the chapel, behind the altar. The painting was entitled "Incarnation," and it took a pretty good swipe at my theology on that topic. I wish I could post an image here, but I'll try to describe it.

First, it was about eight feet tall by three wide. The bottom third was mostly black, with some gravel embedded in the paint. The top section was varying shades of deep blue. From the top center down to the horizon, there was an straight-but-uneven, energetic swath of yellow and white varying from 4-8 inches wide, streaming directly and forcefully downward into the black earth, where it became an orange glow.

In other words, a field of deep darkness, through which came a stroke of glory so powerful that it turned the very earth to embers where it struck.

Sweet-smelling straw, gentle animals and smiling humans...not present. Just radiance and power.

It got me thinking. About the meeting of heaven and earth. About the story that I knew by heart, with the sentiment removed. About the starkness of the contrast between light and dark, despair and hope.

I couldn't form words around it for quite a while--not until I'd experienced some despair firsthand. A couple of years later, my personal ground was laid; I was at the lowest point of my life, and trying to re-energize myself at the St Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts.

I had signed up for a hymnwriting workshop led by the wonderful Mel Bringle. On the first day of the workshop, we were supposed to write a text to go with a particular tune (Bill Rowan's STILL WATERS, to be precise). It could have been about anything, as long as the syllabic count and speech rhythms matched the line. This text flowed from my green felt-tip, almost of a piece. It was finished by day's end; the easiest writing I've ever done. It's about the world that so desperately needed (needs) that stroke of glory and light, which I'd come to understand as I hadn't at first view of the painting.

Dark is the night, quiet and cold;
all earth waits for Love's bright dawn.
Send us your light, promised of old:
oh, come, Lord Jesus, come!

Whisper of wind, blow through the trees:
heaven's breath, meet flesh and bone!
Stir us again, life-giving Breeze:
oh, come, Lord Jesus, come!

Rupture the night! Sing in the stars,
Radiant One, make us your home!
Bathe us in light; blaze in our hearts:
oh, come, Lord Jesus, come!

Oh, come, Lord Jesus, come!

Blessed Advent, everyone.


mompriest said...

wow, lovely! the image, the painting, the poetry!

Catherine + said...

Transfixed, my awe, turning
Turning toward the lightening east
From whence shall come True Light
Brightening the dark of the soul...

Thank you so much Choralgirl. I'd love to hear this someday...

Choralgirl said...

Wow, Catherine, that's lovely.

Catherine + said...

Your writing and the lyrics caused that to happen...thank you for the inspiration. You are such a gift to all of us from God on high...

Songbird said...

Blessed Advent to you, too!

Magdalene6127 said...

That is already singing in my heart.

Gorgeous. Thank you. You are such a gift.

Diane Vogel Ferri said...

those words embody the essence of Advent - i love "Rupture the night.."

FranIAm said...

What a beautiful Advent post. Thank you as always.

And Diane is right- "Rupture the night..." wow!