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A Footnote to All Prayers

I have mentioned the CS Lewis poem previously. I think it is worth highlighting in its own post:

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshiping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

ps. Another apophatic thought: Saint Augustine said to a group of people, “We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God.”

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6 thoughts on “A Footnote to All Prayers”

  1. I continue to attend and take an active role in an Anglican Parish while having extreme doubts about the God we preach- and I am a lay preacher. I suppose I am close to the thinking Of Richard Holloway remembering his reference to Wittgenstein that when all the science is done the mystery still remains. In this context Lewis’ words and Augustine indeed reverberate

    1. Thanks for your honest, open comment, Brian. May I encourage you to follow the link to other discussions about the apophatic, and to read widely around that (John of the Cross, The Cloud of Unknowing, Meister Eckhart, etc). I am convinced that what you describe can be a much-enriching, even necessary part of our contemplative journey. Blessings.

  2. I was recently checking out some hymns suitable for Thanksgiving – 1st Sunday in October – and quite by chance ran across a hymn “similar to” Lewis’ in its apophatic theology “Immortal, invisible God only wise; in light inaccessible hid from our eyes…”.
    Does anyone else know of any Anglican “apophatic” hymnography?

  3. “We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God.”

    Oh dear Bosco…and if we DO ( think we ) understand, how can that be God? Apophatic hymn indeed:

    Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
    In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
    Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
    Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

    Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
    Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
    Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
    Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

    To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
    In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
    We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
    And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

    Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
    Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
    But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
    Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.

    All laud we would render; O help us to see
    ’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
    And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
    Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

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