Sunday, May 23, 2010

words i love

appropriate, in a pentecost sort of way, that i would come across these words in my book this afternoon:

As soon as I shut my eyes, I could see the river again, only now I seemed to see it up and down its whole length. Where just a little while before people had been breathing and eating and going about their old everyday lives, now I could see the currents come riding in, at first picking up straws and dead leaves and little sticks, and then boards and pieces of firewood and whole logs, and then maybe the henhouse or the barn or the house itself. As if the mountains had melted and were flowing to the sea, the water rose and filled all the airy spaces of rooms and stalls and fields and woods, carrying away everything that would float, casting up the people and scattering them, scattering or drowning their animals and poultry flocks. The whole world, it seemed, was cast adrift, riding the currents, whirled about in eddies, the old life submerged and gone, the new not yet come.

And I knew that the Spirit that had gone forth to shape the world and make it live was still alive in it. I just had no doubt. I could see that I lived in the created world, and it was still being created. I would be part of it forever. There was no escape. The Spirit that had made it was in it, shaping it and reshaping it, sometimes lying at rest, sometimes standing up and shaking itself, like a muddy horse, and letting the pieces fly.

--from Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

the scriptures describe the descent of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire. but the Holy Spirit is so often associated with water, too, as in the words of the baptismal rite prayed in church just this morning:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into this fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again through faith in Jesus Christ may continue forever in the power of his risen life. To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

what do fire and water--generally regarded, it think, as opposites--have in common? power. it's no accident that, in that fiery sunset photo up there, it's difficult to tell whether you're looking at the sky or the water. the apparent chaos the character j. crow describes as he describes the flooding river, the strength of that water and the human lack of control of it--that's power. i imagine the situation at pentecost may have been similarly overwhelming: tongues of fire, people speaking in foreign languages, the multitudes rushing to hear. clearly, Someone other than the disciples or any new wine was in control. and it was powerful. "And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2). like a flooding river, the sound of such a mighty wind from heaven must have been powerful and awe-ful. and beyond control.

"As if the mountains had melted and were flowing to the sea." awe-some. it is Good to be swept away.

(and yes, twosquare, i'm finally reading it! finally reading...)


Em the luddite said...

Thanks for these words, Daniele. They were absolutely the appropriate end to an eventful Pentecost weekend for me.

I may steal them from you in a post later this week, but since I bought twosquare her copy of Jayber I feel alright doing it.

Daniele said...

Eventful in a good way, I hope...?

Thanks for buying her the book so she could tell me over and over again to read it...which I am very glad now to--finally!--have gotten around to doing. Steal away, my friend. :)

Em the luddite said...

Quite good, though not without its heaviness.

TwoSquareMeals said...

She's reading it! She's reading it! You will find many more beautiful passages to quote. The part at the end about the man in the well is one of Giff's favorite passages in literature. Enjoy Wendell, make him your friend, read many of his books.