Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Venite, exultemus: Our Morning Profession of Faith

O Come, let us sing unto the Lord; *

let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; *

and show ourselves glad in him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God; *

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are all the corners of the earth; *

and the strength of the hills is his also.

The sea is his, and he made it; *

and his hands prepared the dry land.

O come, let us worship and fall down, *

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For he is the Lord our God; *

and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; *

let the whole earth stand in awe of him.

For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth; *

and with righteousness to judge the world,

and the peoples with his truth.

I am in the middle of writing a short book on Benedictine practice in the way of the house to which I belong. In doing this, with Hebrew help from my partner, I will be providing certain Psalms in a contemplative vernacular using expanded language in a brief Office setting.

Contemplative vernacular is my way of describing a translation that is pleasing to the ear, respecting contemporary language as capable of the divine, and inviting (mystagogical) of pray-ers into a receptive or contemplative stance. Expanded language, used in Enriching Our Worship, works on the premise that we set aside one another a variety of scriptural and traditional images and names for God so that a resonating and correcting can occur among them. It differs from inclusive language which tends to want to throw out masculine translations. To set aside one another translations and prayers that address Jesus as king and Jesus as mother, for example, produces a wider sense this God Who Is is incomparable to any other, who turns our notions of deity and lordship downside up. The crib and cross being spectacular moments of this explosion of our conceptions. Expanded language encourages a canonical approach to our praying as does already our 1979 Book of Common Prayer in structure and provision. To hear LORD, One Who Is, Self Existent One, and One Who Causes To Exist clarifies that this God is Creator unlike any other god or human master.

This is all prelude to my translating the classic American Venite (Ps. 95:1-7, Ps. 96:9, 12b-13). By pondering the Name and the many connotations, and then "Rock of our salvation" then "a great God...above all gods," suddenly the Venite just opened up in a way I had never read or heard it before as "Hear, O Israel, the LORD your God is one" who creates heaven and earth. It dawned on me as I translated LORD and as I read through the text that the Venite is comparable to the She'ma. The Venite is a profession of faith, a creed in psalmody. How could I have missed this before?

Which then got me to pondering God's greatness above all gods, or God's oneness, which properly speaking makes Jews and Christians not monotheists, or having one God, but rather that God is One, eternal, only, alone, unity, creator, unlike any other being, etc.

And then the eschatological nature of the profession of our classic form with its closing verses from Ps. 96. Creeds are not mere propositions, but profess, proclaim, acclaim, do and hear, the God Who is this, this way, like this because showing himself to be so through these mighty deeds of creation and redemption. Creeds invite us to trust in this One. But more than this, Creeds invite us to trust in this One Who is present to us here and now in the profession, proclamation, acclamation. From God's opening our lips to our profession, we are made aware that God is present, that this is a Real Meeting, a communion with our God in psalm-singing and scripture-reading.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Good Friday Reflection at the Cafe

Nativity and Passion piety are inextricably bound with a solid teaching of Creation as well as Resurrection and Ascension.