Ode: The Word

This ode explores the materialization of thought as it becomes word.  The prologue of John, arguably one of the most epic, sweeping pieces of literature, forms its basis, along with its sister passage: the prologue of I John, and, of course, the very first recorded action of God in Genesis, as into formless void we read:  “And God said . . .”
  •  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God. . . . In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 
  • . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. . . 
  • That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 
 I also give a nod to the Hebrew notion of the word as the manifestation of the infinite contained in a finite vessel–vowels representing the eternal; consonants the temporal.  Thus, the Word becomes the vessel of communication from immortal God to mortal humankind–the thoughts of the Master of the Universe housed in the raw material of earth.  This happens, according to these passages, in Creation, in the person of Jesus Christ, and finally, in the written Word of the Scripture.
I chose the structure of a Pindaric Ode for this poem, hearkening back to ancient poems that were accompanied by a chorus.  The chorus on the right, the strophe, would speak and move to the first two lines of the stanza; the chorus on the left, the antistrophe, would do the same to the second two lines of the stanza, and the chorus in the middle, the epode, recited the last two lines with no physical movement.  Antigone is written this way.  So is Wordsworth’s Ode: Intimations on Immortality.  The Pindaric Ode differs from other odes, such as the Horatian Ode, in that the subject matter of the Pindaric Ode must be grand and majestic, whereas the Horatian Ode can be about more common ideas–such as Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale.  
The form for “The Word” is iambic pentameter, ABABCC.

Ode: The Word

How silent that arena, unlit space,

The waters swirling, boundless, without form.

Each shapeless mass still waiting for its face,

Suspended life, the calm before the storm.

When suddenly a Voice above was heard–

To animate the void with just His Word.

 

That Word made Matter, Space, Duration, Light,

And yet we knew within that substance dwelt

Immortal Wisdom, barely veiled from sight

Right there, encountered, tasted, heard, and felt.

A Holy God made manifest to all

By shrouding Glory in an earthly shawl.

 

Eternity embodied, set in time,

Enclosed in carbon, dust, in flesh and blood,

Each consonant now striking measured chime

To halt the vowel, staunch its endless flood.

God’s amaranthine thought seized by the host

Of endings and beginnings, least and most.

 

Long after that first Word wound up the clock

Long after grand Infinity was bound

In casing corporeal, God took stock,

And once again, from Heaven came a Sound:

Another Word to demonstrate His love,

The Son: incarnate Wisdom from above.

 

Thus age-old Truth, once cloaked in mystery

–Creation’s fixed ontology, well-known–

Could teach the Father’s plan for history

Within a mortal frame just like our own.

A Translator to speak so we could hear–

The Word, told in our mother-tongue, now clear.

 

Today that story’s told in pages worn,

The message free for those with ears to hear,

Of both the times Infinitude was born,

Once in our cosmos, once our human peer.

And I have held that Word within my hand,

And read, and learned, and come to understand.

 
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7 thoughts on “Ode: The Word

  1. Every time I see the stunning first passage of John, since I first saw it in my early twenties, the power and beauty of it has pulled me in. I have come to believe that it’s a mystical passage, by which I mean, It can not be understood by the “normal” mind, that the “normal” mind eventually exhausts itself in the attempt to understand it, and if the attitude is humble enough, prayerful enough, bows before it, so to speak, so that the Power of the Word may enter with less than the usual obstruction.

    What may occur is that a deep well of silence opens, as the “normal” mind goes still. This may be what Jesus refers to in suggesting “Be still and know that I am God.” How I wish for fluency in the Greek of the time to be able to fully parse that bombshell! Assuming that would even help!

    We can only surmise, that in the quiet spaces of our consciousness, the Light pours through, and to be aware of this consciously is a kind of Divine revelation, or illumination.

    You may notice I’ve written in the “first person exhortative” if there is such a thing. Thank you for this opportunity Amy… FW

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Fred! There is, I agree, this beautiful tension in the Bible between the eternal and the finite, and how much of the former can be understood by the latter. I Corinthians 13 reminds us “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

    And Paul tells us in Ephesians that he bows his knees to the Father and asks that we “ may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,.” It sounds almost like a contradiction, that we should comprehend, that we should know that which passeth knowledge. How is such a thing possible?

    And that, I believe, is the miracle of God taking human form in the person of Jesus Christ, Who, in His brief life on earth, was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin, and Who gave Himself willingly as the sacrifice on our behalf, and sits now, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, where He is our High Priest and Advocate.

    The representation of the Word in the incarnation of Jesus Christ created a giant shift in the understanding of those who believe; where once they had relied on the teaching of others and the world around them to know their Creator, now they had direct knowledge of what had previously been unknowable, through the person of Jesus Christ: as the author of Hebrews says, “and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”

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    1. “”For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.””

      Gorgeous poetry at the very, very least. The part after the final semicolon (the final caesura?) gets me down the rabbit hole: on the one hand into the arid waste of mere semantics; on the other in the attempt to penetrate beneath the words to the meaning. So I am left with: Do I then know as in the way I know myself? Or: Do I then know as I know *that* I am? Or (my preference): Do I then know “am”–some core insight, beyond word or thought or feeling, of *being*? (I don’t know how to make italics on this page.)

      “” may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,.””

      Where does the love of Christ reside? In our hearts (metaphorically or anatomically or no distinction)? If so, where then is the separation between us and It, other than our forgetting, seeing only through “a glass darkly”?

      “It sounds almost like a contradiction, that we should comprehend, that we should know that which passeth knowledge. How is such a thing possible?”

      Paradox, I think, not contradiction. Paradox, which forces our minds–the organ I think of that “through a glass darkly” vision–to tie itself in knots and come to a halt.

      Again I’m grateful for this opportunity. Not often do I get to discuss these things that are so precious and important.

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      1. Great ponderings, Fred, and thank you for engaging with me on these Scriptures! You are right; these are the precious and important issues, and the ones that deserve the closest examination.

        I think I see where you are coming from on the last measure of the “glass darkly” passage. I won’t pretend to understand completely, since, with you, I am also seeing through the glass darkly, but I like to compare scripture against scripture, and this passage reminds me of Psalm 139, which says,

        “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.”

        That passage indicates an intimate knowledge of us by our Creator, even mentioning further on in the psalm how God knit us together in the secret place, how He saw our unformed substance and wrote all our members in His book before there were any of them.

        So, when Paul says, “but then shall I know even as also I am known,” perhaps he is saying that then I will know both myself and the Eternal, even as the Eternal now knows me. In other words, in this third dimension I live in now, in this finite body, I am only able to see dimly, but someday, when the veil is removed, and I pass from this life into Eternity, I will see clearly, and I will fully know my Creator and will understand the depth of His knowledge about me in the same complete way that He knows me right now. Heady stuff!

        I do think that the love of Christ is in our hearts, and I am inclined to believe that that could mean both the metaphorical seat of emotions that we call the heart, and also the physical heart we each have within us. After all, our very bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who lives in us if we believe. Science may scoff at that, but there are such depths of understanding of the human body that we have yet to plumb that I think we should not discount the idea. There are stories of heart transplant recipients who have somehow had recollections of faces or happenings from the lives of their donors. Could there be some sort of cell memory? Or could it just be chance? Or could there be something to the spiritual nature of our hearts, into which “the love of God is shed abroad . . . by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) After all, our physical breath, from creation, was given by God. Why not also the love of Christ in our physical hearts when His Spirit indwells us?

        And, yes, there is a natural separation between us and that Love: our iniquities, our sins. Not a popular topic, but according to Isaiah 59, “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

        That separation by sin no longer exists, though, for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ, their Advocate with God the Father, because Jesus Christ became “sin for us, . . . that we might be made the righteousness of God.” That ultimate inversion, the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, puts an end to the separation between ourselves and that love of Christ.

        Romans 8 says it beautifully: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

        Well,I guess that was more wordy than I had intended, but the more I examine the scripture, the more connections I see, the more wisdom and beauty and truth–and it all just begs to be explored. Thanks, Fred, for exploring with me!

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      2. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

        Everything mentioned there in Romans is of the world, of image, in other words, of mind, perceived. And therefore, through a glass darkly. and without the power to separate us from that Love. There’s a lovely image from Plotinus, Egyptian Greek philosopher in the early C.E., that the work is to sculpt an ever more faithful representation of Soul while in the earthly body, the 3-D, consciousness here. (Soul here is, I think, interchangeable with Christ Jesus, though that is not what Plotinus said and is certainly arguable.) It’s an idea like what has been said of Michelangelo, who saw the perfect image in the marble block from the quarry and chiseled away all that was unnecessary to it. By inference that perfection is always there, even from the beginning, and never absent; but here, I think, it must be at least sensed. We have somehow to wake up to it. It will not do with blind faith, or there wouldn’t have been this desire to know, to understand. The question that has been asking itself in me for decades is: Can we *be* that Love, in a way that there is no separation yet the show and play of the world goes on? If that were not the case, would we ever be able to bring Joy into the “Bad” things in life? Would we be victims of evil no matter what?

        That’s a lot of questions but the central one is can we *be* Love? And if the answer is no because of our sin, How is sin determined? By Scripture? Is its interpretation not of the realm of “seeing through a glass darkly?”

        Round and round we go!

        I want to mention again how rich this experience is for me Amy and thank you for getting it started. I find that I crave someone to talk to about these things. When two or more are gathered….

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  3. Great questions, Fred, and deep ones. It seems that the Bible calls Love both an action and a state of being, both a transitive verb and an intransitive. Jesus expressed Love’s active qualities when He said ,”Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The ultimate sacrifice, a laying down of one’s life, is the action of Love.

    Prior to His sacrifice of His body on the cross, the stage is set: “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:11) Loving them “unto the end” meant laying down His life for the world, of His own free will.

    But Love is also represented as an intransitive state, as an inate quality of God, as in this passage from I John: “ Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

    “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

    “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

    ” And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

    “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”

    There is so much in that passage, and in the rest of I John about Love–it will keep me busy for the rest of this life and for eternity, too! So, John seems to be saying here, God is Love, but if our proximity to God is changed through the life and death of Jesus Christ (see all of Hebrews–how Christ is our great High Priest), so that His Spirit dwells within us, then we, like God, are vessels of His perfected Love: “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (back to Romans 5 again!)

    More later, when I get some more time . . . ‘Til then, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;” (Colossians 3)

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