On the inside cover of Rupert Shortt’s biography of Rowan Williams the following is stated “Rowan Williams is a complex, controversial, widely admired figure, one who towers intellectually over almost all his predecessors as Archbishop of Canterbury” For many years he has fascinated me with his wisdom, his questioning, his doubt, his convictions and his poetry. He speaks 3 languages and can read 9 languages! I choose two brief sentences, from so many, in the biography where Williams offers comment. These, along with the whole book, I consider worth pondering “Very often we tie down the notion of belief to mean having a quick answer to what you think is true out there, rather than, how do you inhabit the world you’re in, the speech you speak, and the vision you see.” In reference to the inner struggle and work of the church Williams comments “we don’t solve our deepest problems just by better discipline, but my better discipleship, a fuller entry into the intimate joy of Jesus’ life.” I remain in awe of this man’s wisdom and intellect.
Williams in his wide catholic tastes is drawn often to the rituals of the Orthodox Church and especially it’s iconology. His poem Rublev is based on the icon of Rublev shown above. Note the three lined verses which echo the Trinity. Take a long minute to read this poem and enjoy the moment, as if God just walked in!
One day, God walked in, pale from the grey steppe,
slit-eyed against the wind, and stopped,
said, Colour me, breathe your blood into my mouth.
I said, Here is the blood of all our people,
these are their bruises, blue and purple,
gold, brown, and pale green wash of death.
These (god) are the chromatic pains of flesh,
I said, I trust I shall make you blush,
O I shall stain you with the scars of birth
For ever, I shall root you in the wood,
under the sun shall bake you bread
of beechmast, never let you forth
To the white desert, to the starving sand.
But we shall sit and speak around
one table, share one food, one earth. Rowan Williams
you remain beyond our understanding, yet
you walk right in and sit right down.
This you did in Jesus, and continue to do, in
the wonder of your Spirit.
Along the way of our every day
you wait patiently and invite our conversation.
Gracious and generous host,
remain close, ever present even in my absence.
One thought on “Seated at a table!”
Earlier this week I spent a good part of a rainy day studying the Dryden poem, and trying to interpret it. I needed help and found that reading detailed biographical information made a difference. It was only then that the poem made sense to me and I was reminded how important it can be to understand the source of words, ideas and thoughts in order to fully understand content. Dryden’s relationship with Mr. Oldham must have been complex and I wish he himself had written a response to Dryden’s wit.
But now I am considering Rublev. It strikes me as a calm and peaceful poem, with an enduring message, one which encourages the reader to complete the thought; One day, God walked in, and…
What did I do that I should not have done, what did I fail to do that I should have done, do we strive to sit at The One Table sharing The One Food and The One Earth? I wonder.
I like the poem.