Sunday, July 27, 2008


Again, Beloved, I have jumped ahead to the middle of the story - the direct center for Uncle Mark. Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. My work is taking longer than I thought. It may be several years before you get a complete translation into your Latin tongue. So I hope my letters anticipating the glory to come will still prove welcome.

Mark writes only a few words summarizing the message of Jesus. Can we hear it? It would seem that Jesus cannot even be sure that his direct disciples - being taught in the flesh - will hear him. (When we read ahead we shall see how slow of learning they were - but he does call the one who hears Rocky - for solid and reliable.) I should withdraw this comment and parenthesis - for surely they are learning in the days of his flesh, but we are learning in the days of our own flesh, and I can assure you, we who learn, are flesh and learn in our flesh, touched by his Spirit.

We do not ask then, 'how would he speak to us today?' as if he were not present. Yet without presuming his presence - and you might think this is almost by an act of self-deception - how can we hear his teaching except mediated by those who have gone before us and whose fleshly bodies are no longer with us? That is by their written record and its tradition.

We who do not see the foretaste of glory, how shall we see beyond our immediate view? Can we jump out of our own skins? You, Beloved, parvule somnambule, amice me, in particular, must hear and know. The task is difficult but not impossible, for it is mediated not just by written words and tradition but by Spirit. We know when we are known and we then know both the surprise of the presence, its incomparable holiness and joy, and why it is difficult to speak.

Remember, Beloved, when Jesus went into the land of Judea and remained with them and baptized - the baptizer and the baptized; each given to the other; water changed to wine; water transmuting into Spirit; Spirit given to the flesh and bones of our own promised land. Now consider the transfiguring fire - not his body as if flesh and blood could inherit, but his body as if Spirit indwells the flesh. Do not call unclean what God has made clean.

Do I give up fire for words, Beloved? God forbid.

- Put down your pen.
- It is done, my Lord, I await your word.
- Pick it up. Now write my words as fire.
- Do I understand words as fire?
- My word is fire. The water of blessing will balance the fire so it does not consume and destroy you.
- May my Lord give us this water for ever.

We are like a forest, Beloved, filled with all manner of strange creatures and luxuriant growth. I have seen the water fall into a forest. The trees are wet. They cling as you walk. If the fire falls before the water, the forest is consumed. Saturate yourself, therefore, with the water of the word and you will be caught as if in a vice. But your heart cries out with joy for the one who could destroy you in a moment does not. You say: I am alone in my knowledge; hold me. The branches will hold you. The grip is secure. You rest and you know you are not alone. Gift, gifted and giver are present. Fire on the earth, Spirit on all flesh will not destroy you. Such a Spirit, Beloved, an oil that lets fire and water burn together, reforms our judgment.

His branches have dripped fatness for us. In the shadow of his branches is such a life, let us ask with the writer of prayers: one thing I have desired of the Lord that I might behold his fair beauty for ever and visit his temple, for he will treasure me in his booth in the time of trouble. For there is trouble as the same psalmist repeatedly notes and as Jesus himself experienced.

- My enemies pick up rocks to throw at me. They lay stones of stumbling for my feet and I fall. Will you not destroy my enemies that they too might know your beauty?
- All who come to me will find rest and I will in no wise cast them out. So it is that I still the enemy and the avenger.
- What will we do for our younger sister?

The Lord and Giver of Life anoints fingers and lips, so we may fully and fitly praise the creator of heaven and earth, both the former and the latter created in one day as it is written, in the day the Lord God made earth and heaven. (I note that in some earlier work I did for you that I mistranslated this from the original tongues - I had written in die quo fecit Dominus Deus caelum et terram and I should have written in die quo fecit Dominus Deus terram et caelum.) The corrected translation closes the parenthesis of the word that begins the book in principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. You will see how careless I was to miss such an obvious feature of the text. The reversal of the words allows us to see and hear the end in the beginning.

- es ist volbracht
- a strange tongue. what is it you are hearing?
- it could be Ruth singing it, but wait, in my ears the timbre changes to a male voice echoing the words - es ist volbracht - a slow descending scale rehearsing the end of all things.

Such a light is good, translating darkness into light, and redeeming the lives of all his servants not missing a hair of the head or a tear of the eye. And what is it we are told: This is my beloved Son; listen to him. 'Beloved.' He shares our name.

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