The blooming of the natural world in spring can make me all the more appalled at our (my!) worship of the works of our hands. Discussing the commandment against idolatry in my Freshman religion class, I found myself recalling the words of the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger:
Until a recent period, beginning with the baroque in the seventeenth century, God the Father was always represented by a sign: the sacred tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters of the divine Name), the ray, the sun, the hand — in other words, by abstract symbols, because the Father cannot be depicted….
Interviewer: Are you shocked that God is represented physically in human form?
Lustiger: The Father, yes. Because that strikes me as being less respectful of the economy of salvation. You know the sentence from the prologue to Saint John’s Gospel: “No one has ever seen God” (1:18).
In class, I was soon on a mild rant against CCD books that picture God the Father as an old guy with a beard, and depriving a child of the true mystery of who God is. This is the worship of the works of our hands, which worship steals our wonder at who God is, and what God has done.
Wendell Berry, the great farmer-poet of our time, seems to always help me to return to that sense of wonder. Here’s one of his poems of amused rebellion against an idol-worshipping world. +AMDG+
Manifesto: Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Hat tip to htmlgiant. Fair warning: they’re periodically vulgar, and generally obtuse.