On how spring brings out the Wendell Berry in us

May 8, 2010

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

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