{    Cnytr   }

{Thursday, February 22, 2007  }

.:{Hosea}:.



The prophet Hosea and the Delphic oracle

I had the privilege of reading at the Ash Wednesday mass last. I must confess it wouldn't have been my choice of liturgies at which to read -- the 9pm mass at the campus chapel. The "last call" masses are not exactly my favorite, as waiting that long seems a little desperate; being a stodgy old fogey, I also prefer higher liturgies with organs and incense and all the reverential trappings that give a liturgist happy hysterics.

However, I must confess to being very struck by the refrain of one of the hymns, usually the sort that many at St. Blogs might immediately dismiss:

Long have I waited for your coming home to me
And living deeply our new life


Of course, it seems like just another call to conversion that we hear all the time at the beginning of Lent. I thought about it a bit more, and it seemed to me that there were different kind of pleas for repentance. Some are firm and a little ticked off, some are sweet and full of pathos, and some are downright familiar, and marital. This struck me as the latter, and it reminded me of the Song of Songs, the older and newer fruits that the bridegroom has stored up for her love.

I brought this up to the Theology PhD student with whom I attended this mass, and he informed me that the refrain was a paraphrase from the prophet Hosea, who preached the reception of the harlot-wife (his own?), reflecting the relationship between God and Israel.

Interesting, I thought. A different view of Ash Wednesday and repentance that is easy (in a sense) to take, something of a heavy-handed "you HAVE to have a sucky day and give up stuff you like otherwise you are a bad Catholic". It's very easy to think of our own discomfort in Lent and how dreadful it all seems, but what these themes seem to draw to our attention -- firstly and most strongly -- is that this is a time to encounter total and unconditional love that will endure everything for the sake of love and wait even until the end of time. It is a time to let our own hearts, which are spread about in the world in a multiplicity of things (very easy to see when one is a very busy person) to be drawn to this single-mindedness and respond in turn. But our one obstacle to this is our concupiscence, our tendency to walk in the opposite direction when we want to run into the arms of complete and unconditional love. For this reason, it is difficult to love another concupiscent creature: if one does (and we all must), we open ourselves to a vale of tears. Christ opened his arms for the love of all concupiscent creatures and they were nailed to a cross.

This is true of our human relationships. This is true of our relationship, our courtship with the Divine. While we wander aimlessly in the desert, he waits patiently and tells us that he will wait for our own homecoming.

It's just that ... a homecoming, and accepting of an embrace. The Refiner's fire that accompanies that embrace will burn away our concupiscence -- and that is painful, though in a healing way than a sword piercing our hearts (from embracing another's concupiscence) is not.

What is this Lent? What is the suckiness that is giving up alcohol or caffeine or t.v. or secular music or sweets and all these small, simple mortifications that remind us that we are human and are fallible and weak -- in short, concupiscent? It's simply stepping into the door and embracing the bridegroom. Lent need not be a long-faced daily "holy COW I need a cup of coffee right now", but a happy desire for the endlessly patient Lord, the bridegroom, waiting for us with the old and newer fruits stored for us.

And, for fun, the RSV text of Hosea 2 (the latter half):

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. "And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, 'My husband,' and no longer will you call me, 'My Ba'al.' For I will remove the names of the Ba'als from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord. "And in that day, says the Lord, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Not pitied, and I will say to Not my people, 'You are my people'; and he shall say 'Thou art my God.'"
posted by Lauren, 11:15 AM

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