Yesterday, I was sent a poem by Anne Porter that caused a chill of recognition in my heart.

These are words that resonate with deep truth. Porter articulates the potential power of art and, I would like to believe, possibly richness of the religious enterprise.

I know what Porter writes about here and long for this to be peoples’ experience, not only of music, but also in church.

Music
by Anne Porter 

When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I’ve never understood
Why this is so

But there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

(“Music” by Anne Porter from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006.)

As a child, Porter experienced in her mother’s music:

A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

This is the glory of music; it is also a profound symbol of the glory of God, who is heard most commonly,

not in the wind… not in the earthquake, and… not in the fire, but in a sound of sheer silence. (I Kings 19:11,12)

And yet, this gentle “sound of sheer silence” is so great and so mighty that it cannot be confined to the tiny parameters our limited human capacity for understanding. There are “no words” that can give adequate expression to this mysterious movement in the depths of our being.

Like many artists Porter has grasped the unsettling reality that this “sound” for which our hearts long, is accessed most readily when something

Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness

Our hearts are restless; we long

For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

Music and, I would like to believe the religious enterprise, can cause us to

half remember
That lost native country.

Perhaps church, like all true art, might open our hearts to that deeper reality wherein lies our true destiny and our deepest identity as human beings created in the image of God who have wandered away from that shining reality and long to return to

The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams.

Hidden just beneath the surface of all our deepest longings, is

the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows.

And yet, greatest gift of all, that “One” is not far off. That “One” for whom we long

also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

Yes we all wander. And the ache at the heart of all our wanderings signals to us that there is a “native country” from which we have come and to which we are returning. That native country is not some far distant place. It has never left us. We have never really been in exile.

We carry within us “The fragrant windswept clover” and “The birdsongs in the orchards.” Each shining moment is a reminder of who we are. Every stirring of our hearts, no matter of sorrow or joy, awakens us to transcendence and reminds us of our true nature as beams of light born from the radiance of love.

******************

thank you Terry for passing on this beautiful poem

see if this has the Anne Porter effect:

 

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