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To Kneel where Worship has been Valid

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Twenty-First Sunday of the Year. Fr Piers Linley waxes lyrical on the ineffable.

Let's begin with a poem by an American Benedictine priest who only began writing poetry at the age of seventy- five. (I discovered his work when I was that same age myself!)

GOD IS NOT A PROBLEM by Kilian McDonnell

("A problem is something which I meet, which I find complete before me." Gabriel Marcel, The Mystery of Being)

God is not a problem
I need to solve, not an
algebraic, polynomial equation
I find complete before me,

with positive and negative numbers
I can add, subtract, multiply.
God is not a fortress
I can lay siege to and reduce.

God is not a confusion
I can place in order by my logic.
God's boundaries cannot be set,
like marking trees to fell.

God is the presence in which
I live, where the line between
what is me and what
before me is real, but only God

can draw it. God is the mystery
I meet on the street, but cannot
lay ahold of from the outside
for God is my situation,

the condition I cannot stand
beyond, cannot view from a distance,
the presence I cannot make an object,
only enter on my knees.

We may have doubts about the utility of reading St Paul's letter to the Romans to the average congregation. It is a notoriously difficult work. A short extract is always hard to relate to the main thrust of Paul's argument -- whatever that is for theologians disagree!

It would be all too easy to see the letter as a collection of problems -- and difficult ones to boot. But to-day's quote from it goes to the heart of what Paul is saying because it is about the mystery -- THE Mystery -- God Himself.

God is the mystery in the sense that Gabriel Marcel explains and that Kilian McDonnell expounds in his beautiful and theologically rich poem. This is the moment in Paul's letter when he turns to a prayer of praise. He exemplifies Kilian's final words:

God is my situation,

the condition I cannot stand
beyond, cannot view from a distance,
the presence I cannot make an object,
only enter on my knees.

What more could I say? Kilian is a poet: I have no such talent: his poem is better than anything I could say. God is the mystery before whom we can only kneel.

He is our Creator, his creating power sustains us continually in existence. He is present to us anywhere and everywhere. His providence enfolds us and our every action. When we kneel in prayer to God we can have the whole God, his totality.

As Saint Basil the Great says :

"The Spirit is given to each one who receives Him as if He were the possession of that person alone."



Isaiah 22:19-23
Romans 11:33-36
Matthew 16:13-20


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