Tag Archives: heaven

Echoes of harmonies and blisse.

St Andrew’s Church in Bemerton, Wiltshire

This is the church where George Herbert served as rector for a only a few years before his death at the age of 39. He was born in Wales in 1593, into a wealthy and powerful family. The poet John Donne was his godfather, which was surely an important role, as his father Richard died when George was three years old. After his university education he held posts at Cambridge, was briefly a member of parliament, and held the clerical post of prebend.

But it wasn’t until 1629 that he decided to enter the priesthood and was appointed to the parish where “he lived, preached and wrote poetry; he also helped to rebuild the Bemerton church and rectory out of his own funds.”

He knew he was dying (of consumption); it was in that last year of life that he sent all of his poems to his friend Nicholas Ferrar, asking him to publish them if he thought they were good for anything. He said that they held “a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed between God and my soul, before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus, my Master.” Commenting on George Herbert’s religious poetry later in the 17th century, Richard Baxter said that the poet “speaks to God like one that really believeth in God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books.”

His prose works include a volume of nearly 1200 “outlandish proverbs” that he collected, and which is currently available on Amazon. That’s one that looks interesting to me, too.

Charles Cotton described George Herbert as a “soul composed of harmonies,” and it seems that he was also a skilled lutenist and composed hymns. More than ninety of Herbert’s poems have been set for singing over the centuries by composers like Benjamin Britten, Henry Purcell, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. When I read that the Wesley brothers adapted a few dozen for the Methodist hymnal, I checked out our family’s inheritance of hymnals from Methodist and Presbyterian churches but only found one attribution to Herbert.

But I do have a collection of his poems. I’ve shared other works of this poet; now here is one that I only recently noticed, whose echo-dialogue and themes I like very much. I found online a thorough exploration of the poem by Inge Leimberg, who tells us that “In Herbert the three themes of death, being restored from death, and spiritual vision are closely bound up with music and poetry (which to Herbert are one and the same).” I haven’t finished reading her essay, but I did catch one example of the layers of meaning he was famous for; “holy leaves” likely refer not just to leaves, but also to pages of the Bible.

One friend was of the opinion that Herbert would be singing his melodies with the angels in heaven, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the angels do join in with this harmonious and persevering soul.

HEAVEN

O who will show me those delights on high?
Echo.         I.
Thou Echo, thou art mortall, all men know.
Echo.         No.
Wert thou not born among the trees and leaves?
Echo.         Leaves.
And are there any leaves, that still abide?
Echo.         Bide.
What leaves are they? impart the matter wholly.
Echo.         Holy.
Are holy leaves the Echo then of blisse?
Echo.         Yes.
Then tell me, what is that supreme delight?
Echo.         Light.
Light to the minde : what shall the will enjoy?
Echo.         Joy.
But are there cares and businesse with the pleasure?
Echo.         Leisure.
Light, joy, and leisure ; but shall they persever?
Echo.         Ever.

-George Herbert 1593–1633

Where is home, and where is Heaven?

Sooo slow I am in fully returning to Being Home. Though I suppose I never will be living in my house in quite the same way as before, having sojourned so distantly, and changed in God only knows what ways. I grew older, for sure. But maybe I grew younger, too?

clean air, vineyards and mustard bloom

I was so surprised, when I walked in the front door on my return from that other world, to see that I have wood floors. At that moment I didn’t feel the lack of windows and light, but only felt the warmth and welcome that my house had held in trust for me all those weeks, even though I had learned to live happily with hard and cool marble floors, and the strange light coming through a multitude of windows, reflected off the Arabian Sea and filtered through smog.

It’s taken me nearly three weeks just to fill and start up the fountain again. The finches were having to make do with winterized nyger seed, that is, frozen and thawed, rained on and packed down into a brick at the bottom of the feeder. But I fixed those things today and looked around some more at the garden. Rosemary is blooming and the fountain is now tinkling.

I just learned that Swiss chard is also called silverbeet!
Jerusalem Sage
Pride of Madeira with no blooms yet…

Do you remember Miss Grenadine? She was a gift from Mr. Glad. She kept watch over my bedroom while I was gone, and still does during the day:

I had lunch with my goddaughter last week. She and her husband lost their house in the fires that ravaged our area last October. A day or two after that dreadful event, she texted me, “Wherever our family is together, that is home.”

I understand some of that. Ever since my husband passed from this earthly life three years ago this month, I have felt most at home when I am with my children, wherever a few of us are gathered. I don’t think I would feel this way if we didn’t all agree on this: though we’ve been supremely blessed in this life, it’s not satisfying in itself, no matter what beautiful place you live in and with what dear humans.

At this moment I’m thinking about things homey and cozy (or cool, as we preferred, in Mumbai), but of course concurrent in all of our lives is pain and suffering. Wherever I go, I bring myself with my sin-sickness, and I carry in my heart the burdens of those whose suffering seems to me hardly bearable. But in every place, Christ is. He is the one who makes the atmosphere sweet with the scent of flowers or the affection of our children. He is always giving us Himself.

At the end of things, The Blessed will say, “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.” And the lost will say, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.
― C.S. Lewis

My view is deep.

pearly everlasting

 

DAY 4: I set out walking alone before breakfast, for back therapy. Yarrow and pearly everlasting flowers line the road, which has recently been resurfaced in places with granite gravel in 2-4 inch chunks. Yesterday when Scout and Ivy walked back from the lake they stopped their father every few feet to exclaim about a new piece that they had picked up, with unique sparkles or shape.

On return, I fry a pound of bacon, because you always have to do that in the mountains when you’re in a cabin where the bears can’t get at you. Scout and Ivy grab a crispy slice in one hand and a pile of blueberries in the other, and go out on the deck to play, waiting interminably it seems for the adults to do something besides talk – like take them out in the boats.

While the other adults are still making plans I decide to walk again, and take Scout with me. We head down to the lake and on the way he schools me in conifers, showing me red firs and lodgepole pines (aka tamarack, his father tells me), the most numerous tree species in this area.

lodgepole pine with red fir behind

As we come up through the forest behind the cabin, I check on the puffball I saw last month — remember, it looked like this:

— and it has puffed itself and exploded into a pile of cocoa powder:

When the canoeing group finally embarks paddles in hand, two-year-old Jamie and I remain in the cabin. This is the first time I’ve ever taken care of him alone. We play with dominoes, and read Machines at Work a dozen times while eating nuts that he holds in little bowl on his lap.

Tonight Pippin, understanding how much star-gazing means to me, does most of the work to set up the chaise lounge on the deck. Mice have demolished the pad so she makes a sort of mattress with blankets and Thermarest pads. Soon all the lights in the cabin are extinguished, the family are in their beds, and I stretch out in the dark darkness, flat on my back staring up.

Black tops of the lodgepole pines ring the patch of sky like a wreath. My view of the heavens is not wide, but it is deep. The first thing that happens is that I feel the stars’ presence like angels hovering over me, and I almost begin to weep. I think about what my friend Art said, that the sky is not empty, but full of angels, and try to remember if that was a reason that C.S. Lewis wanted to call his trilogy not The Space Trilogy but Deep Heaven. Space sounds empty, but like all of Creation, it is filled with God’s presence.

The fullness is overwhelming, but soothing. Cool air blows on my face. I drink and am strengthened. After a long time I carry my sleeping bag into the cabin and soon am sailing into dreamland like Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

Next day’s entry is HERE.