Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tortured Wonders Restored

On the 11th day of Christmas, here is something from Tortured Wonders: Christian Spirituality for People, Not Angels by Rodney Clapp:

The Anglican poet George Herbert, in his eloquent way, got it just right. We are together and each of us “once a poor creature” simply lost and self-destructing, yet also “now a wonder” remembered and revisited by the Spirit. We are a wonder tortur’d in space/Betwixt this world and that of grace,” the grace of a new heaven and a new earth, of creation whole in all its parts. Christian spirituality, then, is spirituality for tortured wonders. (p. 23)

. . .

The incarnation acknowledges that the human being is a creature of great value that has been seriously wrecked–but insists that (unlike a wrecked automobile) neither the whole nor any part of it can be rejected or forgotten. Even damaged, bent, and distorted, the human being retains inestimable worth: as a whole and in its parts. (p. 38)

. . .

In Christ God assumes or takes humanity into God’s self. Orthodox Christian spirituality denies that humanity, whatever its powers and aspirations, can save itself from its own wreckage, its own self-destruction. Yet it is true humanity, or humanness, that will be saved. The original creation, though marred in and by sin, will not be tossed away and forgotten, as a potter might trash inferior clay and move onto a new and different clay pit. Nor will God forget about the human project altogether. . . . Humanity will be assumed and resumed, restored to its pristine wholeness and reset on the path to the maturation and fullness of that wholeness. (p. 40)

Tortured Wonders is a fine book on spirituality in light of the Incarnation. That means, among other things, that it takes seriously the essential fact that we are bodies.

Here is the whole poem by George Herbert (1593-1633) from which the title of Clapp's book is taken:


BROKEN in pieces all asunder,
Lord, hunt me not,
A thing forgot,
Once a poor creature, now a wonder,
A wonder tortured in the space
Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
Wounding my heart
With scattered smart ;
As wat'ring-pots give flowers their lives.
Nothing their fury can control,
While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife
Quitting their place
Unto my face :
Nothing performs the task of life :
The elements are let loose to fight,
And while I live, try out their right.

Oh help, my God ! let not their plot
Kill them and me,
And also Thee,
Who art my life : dissolve the knot,
As the sun scatters by his light
All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers which work for grief,
Enter Thy pay,
And day by day
Labour Thy praise and my relief :
With care and courage building me,
Till I reach heav'n, and much more, Thee.

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