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

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Like the Phoenix

Daily Readings
Psalm 30 Genesis 26 Isaiah 27:2-13 Acts 24

Daily Text: Isaiah 27:2-13

Like The Phoenix
The first song of the vineyard, Isaiah 5:1-6, saw the vineyard, Israel, destroyed. Now there is a second version and in this version, Isaiah 27:2-6, the vineyard is disciplined, if you will, but ultimately it becomes fruitful and will fill the world with fruit. Out of the discipline the LORD calls Israel to cling to him, to come back making peace, ‘let it make peace with me.’ The New English Bible has a wonderful possibility here obviously referencing the first song of the vineyard.
On that day sing to the pleasant vineyard,
I the LORD am its keeper,
moment by moment I water it for fear its green leaves fail.
Night and day I tend it,
but I get no wine;
I would as soon have briars and thorns,
then I would wage war upon it and burn it all up, (italics mine)
unless it grasps me as its refuge and makes peace with me—
unless it makes peace with me (27:2-5).
But in the time to come, the end time, Israel will be a productive vineyard and supply the whole world with fruit—a new ending to the first song.
Verses 7-11 could be interpreted as God having some mercy on Israel/Judah and exiling them as expiation for their sins, with the idea that they would be returning, and verses 12-13 complete that return. The song, therefore, in 2-6, foreshadows the exile of 7-11 and the return of 12-13. The Hebrew in 7-11 is very difficult, the texts in poor condition. The result is a potpourri of interpretations. The one I have suggested is certainly possible, but not widely supported. What does seem clear is that in the last day, the Hebrews will come back to the holy mountain to worship the LORD.

The Phoenix
Madeleine L’Engle

(There are many and varying legends about the beautiful gold and scarlet bird, the Phoenisk. One is that he returns to Heliopolis every five hundred years, and that he is born again out of his own ashes.)

Vulnerability is my only armour.
I, the colour of fire, of blazing sun,
A blare of yellow and gold, and not a murmur
Of feathers of grey or brown, how can I run

From friend or foe? How could I ever hide?
I shall fly freely across the threatening sky
And I shall sing. Call it, if you like, pride.
I call it joy. Perhaps it’s love. My eye

Is moist with all that brings it such delight.
I love this city thronging with the day,
And all the shadows crowding in the night.
Five hundred years since I have been this way,

O city full of children, wise men, fools,
Laughter and love, and hatred, scheming, murder,
Starvation among gluttons, brothels, schools;
I fly above the city and bring order

Out of this chaos. O small hungry child
Put up your bow, put down the piercing arrow
So that your hands may still be undefiled.
All through the city I must cleanse and harrow.

Aaaaagh! I am wounded by a hunter’s spear.
Against the earth my dying body crashes.
The child who did not shoot me wails in fear.
Hot on my golden feathers swift blood gushes.

Blood stains the faggots of the funeral pyre.
My eyes grow dim among the flames’ wild flashes.
The child is weeping still; the flames burn higher.
Hush. I shall be born from these dead ashes.

Collect for the Day
I lay my pain upon Your altar, loving God;
This is my lamb, my ram, my sacrifice,

My plea for pardon, plea for forgiveness,
For all my sins of doing and not doing.
\prayers that blossom like flowers out of pain
above the earth-pull.

My people’s pains have flamed in sacrifice
Upon Your altar through slow-moving time.

Pain for all evil, hatred, cruelty,
For the sick of body and the sick of heart,

For all the loneliness, and all the lovelessness,

The unmeasureable loss of those that know not You—

The pain of all the world, dear God, I place
Before Your shrine.

Look down in pity and forgiveness.

Cause Your countenance to shine upon us,
And give us peace.


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