Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Dwindling

Daily Readings
Psalm 28 Acts 26:9-21 Isaiah 24 Galatians 1:11-24

Daily Text: Isaiah 24

The Dwindling
Chapters 24-27 incorporate a ‘book’ within Isaiah, a book of world-wide judgement, destruction of end-time proportions, eschatalogy defined. One question might be how this compares to the judgement at the time of Noah, for in verse 18 there is a suggestion that the ancient floods are revisited upon the earth. But somehow the theme that God is fed up and will destroy his creation does not ring true in Isaiah 24. One way of viewing this material is that God is so dreadfully weary of human sinfulness that God simply withdraws his providential support for the earth. The continual healing process withers and dwindles as humans pollute their lives and their world without care. There is a kind of ecological disaster foretold here, without laying on 21st century insights. Even when there are those who repent and begin to honor the LORD, praising him for his majesty and righteousness, the prophet wants only to grieve for he sees that there is no return to a good earth. Foundational forces, like gravity and equilibrium, have been suspended and chaos rules the dying creation not to be renewed (vs. 20). In the final stanza of this poem the prophet shifts to the heavenly spheres and reflects that what is happening on the earth has begun in the eternal spheres. Somehow there are hosts who bear much responsibility for the transgression of the earth. We may here be hearing an echo of chapter 14:12-20.

John Leax

In the beginning there was war,
and my father, hardly more than a boy,
was called. Because he had no church
to witness to the peaceful heart
that spoke a living word within
his chest, he went, and he became
a silent man. In the chasm
of his obedience I fell,
plunged with my first steps
into the wash of blood—a slash
of milky glass split my face from nose
to cheek and left me just one eye to watch
for his return. My mother wept,
I’m sure. No one told my father.
He soldiered on in ignorance of the night
Already settling on his day.

His oldest brother fell at Normandy,
and though he rose, he rose to thump
impatiently on one good leg,
on one good stump. My father had no hour
to take such news to heart. Under orders,
he drove forward, sometimes horsing an ammo
truck, sometimes a general’s jeep.
He posed for photographs and sent them
like postcards to his wife and mother, joked,
“Having a wonderful time.”

Then one April Sabbath in 1945,
his Easter prayers still moist upon his lips,
he drove into a tomb empty of all purpose:
thirty-thousand creeping skeletons,
inhuman, massed like insects behind a fence,
nine-thousand heaped bodies, bone rubble,
stacked, meticulously accounted for
in the dark books of Dachau order,
disordered every word he knew. No joke
could force the truth aside. No prayer
he’d learned in the bright bedtimes
of his farmboy youth could halt the stone
rolling inexorably between the close
enclosure of his mind and the wide
goodness of the life he knew before the word
descended void in vengeance, blood, and bone.

Thirty years from the moment, his heart gave
u the burden of his eyes. He shrugged,
gave a muffled cry, and died. It was night.
My mother’s call reached me in morning.

His body lay gravely silent when I stood
to pray beside it. What question I asked,
what answer I sought, I cannot even
now find voice to say. I think, should
God come down to answer for this world,
he too might break his silence with a shrug,
give up, and die, helpless before the blank
enormity he’d meet in flesh.
I wonder if I’d know him in his life
or in his death. The day I met my father
I was three. My aunt held me above the swirl
of eager wives jamming the station hall.
Each time a man, young, joyful, in uniform
descended from a bus, I cried,
“Is that him? Is that him?”
I can’t remember when she said, “Yes,”
or if he took me in his arms
and touched his face to mine.

Collect for the Day
Lord, You see it; You see that none comes to help, none to intervene. In the high places there is astonishment and anger. And down below, the winds carry dust to earth’s four corners, the dust of Jews. [471:409]


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