Poetic language is open to interpretation, and yet it was Jesus’ preferred mode. And, as it happens, when we profess our faith in the Creed, saying “we believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”, “maker” translates ποιητής [poietes]. ποιητής being the Greek word for maker and also for poet. We believe in one God, the poet of heaven and earth.
The Psalms, of course, are poetry. And open to interpretation, especially going from one language into another. The first line of our Psalm today I find particularly fascinating. “For God alone my soul in silence waits.” The prayer book version is a good and very musical translation. The original: ach el-elohim, dumiah nafshi.
The second part I find especially resonant. Dumiah nafshi. Literally it would be “my soul is silence”. Not silent, but silence. So we might translate “surely, before God, my soul is silence itself”.
“Silence itself.” This brings to mind the great silence, the great void preceding creation, the silence into which God spoke. The silence into which God the poet still speaks. We are, then, created out of the void, spoken into the great silence—we are God’s poetry.
Silence is big in monastic spirituality. Not only an acoustical silence, but a silence of the soul, a silence grounded in the great void. There is something about us of a piece with the primordial silence. A silence waiting for God’s speech, for God’s Word. A silence into which poetry may be spoken, that poetry being we ourselves: the poetry of our souls, the poetry of our very bodies.
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