Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Desultory Phillipic

I've been bumping around the book of Philippians. I do this sometimes; get stuck in a passage. sometimes it's a psalm, or one short verse. Recently it's been in the fourth chapter of Philippians. Note to self: next dry spell, remember that the more scripture you read, the more you love it, and the more juicy goodness you get out of it. This passage is like a strong drink to me.

Warning: biblical obscurity alert! Forgive me while I geek out a while.
I usually read out of the Jerusalem Bible. Reading a certain passage in Zephaniah that was so beautiful it took my breath away won me over to this outdated, Catholic translation. I have a copy of it that is just falling apart but I can't bear to part with it, and it is very hard to find. I finally realized that my falling-apart bible was so much work to read, what with the pages falling out and everything, that it was keeping me from reading the Bible much at all! So I bit the bullet and have started reading out of a different, intact, but very large and unwieldy copy. I made myself a beautiful new ribbon bookmark to entice me into the new book, and it worked. Little things, like the edition of my bible, or an ugly cover, or the lack of adequate bookmarks, often keep me from deep quiet times! (ok, I also like the Jerusalem Bible because J.R.R. Tolkien worked on the translation team. How cool is that? I only know it because I'm such a nerd that I was reading the translation notes. The text notes are mostly bunk; watch out!)
Anyway, I don't recommend the Jerusalem translation for this particular passage. Here is my own paraphrase:

Rejoice! And again, I say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and with thanksgiving, present your requests to the Lord, and the peace which passes understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally brothers, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, anything that is excellent or praiseworthy, whatever is lovely and honorable, whatever is virtuous, whatever is good and pure. Fill your mind with such things.

I was once in a choir. The lowliest choir, really, at St. Olaf College; the only one I could have been in, as I didn't have to audition to join it. Antoine Armstrong, the fabulous conductor described to us how the lyrics, by John Donne, to a piece we were doing, were like a world inside of a nutshell; metaphysical. This passage is worth letting oneself sink into so one can wander around it, marvelling at all the delights therein:
-permission, even exhortation to rejoice! as in God we have great cause to do!
-The Lord is near. How beautiful, to be with God! He is so tender to me, so lovely and sweet.
-Only the voice of God can settle down my worried heart. No one can really tell me not to worry but one who can take care of me, one who knows a lot more than I.
-He gives me something to do with my heart, a practical alternative to worry!
-The closest I can describe the advent, or coming, of the God of peace, is right at the end of Till We Have Faces, when Orual finally meets Eros.
-I very much want help in keeping my heart and mind in the peace that often seems so fleeting.
-That bit about filling the mind with everything good and beautiful and excellent; Yes! This could be the vision for our homeschool, and for my own continuing education. To be filled with all sorts of goodness.