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Monday, September 24, 2012

Love Poems from God


Today I would like to share one of my all time favorite books: Love Poems from God edited and translated by Daniel Ladinsky. This collection of spiritual poetry by medieval writers centers around one of my favorite subjects: intimacy with God.

Now I realize not many people read poetry these days, but the medieval style is very straightforward and approachable, and the spiritual insights in this book leave you amazed. Here are is an example:
*Love is
the perfect stillness
and the greatest excitement, and most profound act,
and the word almost as complete
as His name.


Go ahead, read it again, two or three times, perhaps even out loud. All poems should be read several times to digest meaning on various levels. Think of the words, the sounds, the images, even the look on the page.

I should explain that only about half of the poets in this book are Christians. The Christian authors offer especially exquisite portraits of God, portraits that will be familiar yet leave you more passionately in love with God than ever before. Most of these poets are nuns and monks who were at some point tried for heresy but were later recognized as Catholic saints. It seems their seclusion and celibacy gave them special understanding into the true nature of intimacy with God. Take a moment to ponder these lines by St. Thomas Aquinas.

*God then opened up and I entered Myself.
I entered Myself when I entered
Christ.

And having learned compassion I
allowed my soul
to stay.

Often we think of the medieval period as the “Dark Ages” and assume that Christianity was dead from the fall of the Roman Empire until the Reformation. This is far from true. Yes, there was much corruption in the church, but there were also amazing Christians who kept God’s Word alive for us in the convents and monasteries of Europe.

The poems by the Eastern authors are fascinating in their own way. I believe that our Father God graciously reveals Himself to all who seek Him, and you will find many fervent seekers among the poets in this book. The first poem above was written by Rabia of Basri, a Sufi Muslim.

When I read this book, I did it as a detective, searching for little clues that the true God, maker of heaven and earth, had revealed Himself to these people. For some authors I found none at all, for others I found excellent evidence. Rabia shares in one of her poems that she wept for years because God “did not enter my arms,” until one night He revealed that she had been calling Him by the wrong name. Although she kept His true name a secret, she ended the poem with the line, “All I can say is—it works.”

The authors and poems in this book provided much inspiration for my novel, Dance of the Dandelion, which is set in the medieval period. I wrote my own medieval mystic style poetry for the book. I was particularly influenced by the writings of St. Catherine of Sienna, so I leave you with a thought from her today.
*“I won’t take no for an answer,”
God began to say
to me

when He opened His arms each night
wanting us to
dance.
*Poetry Translations by Daniel Ladinsky

3 comments:

  1. She had been calling him by the wrong name. Dina I'd love to read that entire piem. It sounds like one to spend sometime pondering. And I love your final thought. Nice.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Suzie. This is actually I post I used on Inkwell years ago. I just shortened it a little :)

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  2. I thought maybe I recognized it. There are some posts that should be brought out and shared again. :-)

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