The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Meaning of Job

This past Sunday in the lectionary, we heard God's response to Job, asking him out of a whirlwind, a series of questions designed to point out the extreme finitude of human power and knowledge (Job 38-39).

All of which put me in mind of the exegesis of this passage in Herman Wouk's War and Remembrance, in which the talmudic scholar Aaron Jastrow, imprisoned in the "paradise ghetto" of Theresinstadt, lectures on the Book of Job in contrast to the Iliad, and points out that, in his answer, God concedes Job's main point, that "the missing piece is with Him":
God claims only that His reason is beyond Job. That, Job is perfectly willing to admit. With the main point settled, Job humbles himself, is more than satisfied, falls on his
face. So the drama ends. God rebukes the comforters for speaking falsely of Him, and praises Job for holding to the truth. He restores Job's wealth. Job has seven more sons and three more daughters. He lives a hundred and forty more years, sees
grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and dies old,prosperous, revered.

Satisfied? A happy ending, yes? Much more Jewish than the absurd and tragic Iliad. Are you so sure? My dear Jewish friends, what about the ten children who died? Where was God's justice to them? And what about the father, the mother? Can those scars on Job's heart heal, even in a hundred and forty years? That is not the worst of it. Think! What was the missing piece that was too much for Job to understand? We understand it, and are we so very clever? Satan simply sneered God into ordering the senseless ordeal. No wonder God roars out of a storm to silence Job! Isn't He ashamed of Himself before His own creature? Hasn't Job behaved better than God?
Wouk concludes by praising the loyalty of God's people to God, even when they do not know the reason for suffering--the "loyalty, dafka" as he might put it. In that loyalty, he finds meaning in human existence, despite persecution, privation and fear.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Spiritual Discipline

So, I recently went on a retreat at which one of the facilitators gave me, with a recommendation that I use them, a set of Anglican rosary beads. As a recovering Roman Catholic, I remember my maternal grandmother's rosary as a beautiful and mysterious object. (I still have a silver cross she gave my parents on their wedding day; I wear it when I'm the crucifer).

So, I decided to try it. Now, I'm not so great at letting go and meditating, but the use of simple arrow prayers combined with the physicality of using the beads was a tremendous help in meditating, and closing down my busy brain.

Then, an idea hit me--to also use the beads in intercessory prayer--the large beads for the person I know most in need of prayer; each of the little beads to hold a different person up to God. It made me think beyond my normal prayer list--lengthening it, becoming more deliberate in choosing who I pray for.

Now it's become an integral part of my prayer life, enriching not just who I pray for but how I pray.

Somehow, I think my Nana is very amused by all of this.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Feast Day of St. Columba

I know, I know. I made this point
last year: St Columba is the only saint in the Anglican calendar to have earned also a place on In Search of.

Last year, I mused a little about the meaning of the tale of Columba and Nessie--asking
How do you not love a saint who encounters a Great Myth (apparently in an unusually ferocious mood; Nessie is usually described as shy), rescues its victim, and then doesn't feel the need to kill the dragon? I'm reminded of Robertson Davies' book World of Wonders, where it's suggested that the best saints do not kill the dragons they encounter, but rather domesticate them--meaning, of course, that they don't kill off their shadow sides, but confront them, master them, and come to terms with them, even accept them.

As, in a way, did St. Columba.

This year? Same moral, but with an extra helping of cheese: