The Poetry of God

I don’t want to slime you on Sunday, but my lead item was a about a megachurch pastor, so it really was kinda slimy. Tune in tomorrow.

Let’s do something lovely instead. Like me getting out of the way (mostly) and letting Father Stephen Freeman talk about The Poetry of God.

My taste for poetry has grown year by year since I’ve become Orthodox and begun to learn that there’s just so much about God and about life that cannot so little about God that can be said discursively.

“When we include the fact that the bulk of Orthodox theology is to be found in the hymns of the Church, we have to admit that the heart of the poet and the heart of the theologian are much the same thing.” (Fr. Stephen) It hit me especially hard ten days ago when we celebrated the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (link will download a Word file with text marked for chanting). This is not prosaic hymnody.

For you Western Christians, have a blessed Advent and let me commend W.H. Auden’s For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio for your Advent reading pleasure. It’s part of mine every year. I note that there’s even a YouTube video, though I’ve not watched it. Here’s a few other opinions about it, too: First, Second, Third, Fourth.

UPDATE: Reading this after publishing it, I realized how odd it would have sounded to me twenty years ago that “Orthodoxy” – an equivocal term I associated mostly with doctrinal exactness, not with the Church that received me four years later – does a lot of its theology in hymnody that’s not literal. But it now seems to me that poetic theology is right meet if only because it keeps God out of the “box” of prose, where we can (we delusionally think) examine him and study him in safety.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.