Friday, 18 December 2015

O Adonai

Late morning, we left Cardiff and headed up the M4 to London and the M25 for our weekend with Ann in Kirton. The weather was dry and we made good time until we got beyond High Wycombe, when we were diverted in a long slow traffic queue off the northern orbital, as the section between Junctions 20 and 21 was closed. Instead of five o'clock, it was half past six when we reached our destination. 

For the first time I got to road test my new night driving spec's. I found my distance vision was more vivid, my sense of perspective enhanced, making it less of an effort to read the road ahead and behind in the mirror, I wasn't nearly as tired at the end of a journey ending in the dark as I usually am. Clare was also rejoicing as she'd received a new pair of spec's yesterday, and found a marked improvement on a previous pair, leading her to wonder if she hadn't been incorrectly prescribed previously.

Kirton village green has a large Christmas tree covered in coloured lights, and some of the houses have their garden bushes and trees decorated with white or blue light, some of the flashing, like a migraine aura. There's aren't so many street lights hereabouts which usually makes for restful darkness at night, so the bright decorative contrast came as a surprise assault on the senses. Ann has the house festively decorated already. Back at home, our new little Christmas tree has yet to be brought indoors, let alone decorated. It's a job waiting to be done when we get back.

This day of Advent has a different expression of divine light manifesting itself. R.S. Thomas in his poem 'The bright field' contemplating the play of natural light in the landscape speaks of "... the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush" - where God recruits Moses to be his spokesman and servant.

O Adonai and leader of Israel, 
you appeared to Moses in a burning bush 
and you gave him the Law on Sinai. 
O come and save us with your mighty power.

A respectful circumlocution for the unutterable divine name, Adonai translates into English as 'My Lords', a plural form - reminding me of the use of 'ustedes' in Spanish, 'Lei' in Italian, 'Vous' in French and 'Ihr' in German, when the intimate singular form is thought inappropriate. This convention is lost to common English parlance, where 'you' can be singular or plural, though there are other ways respect is conveyed. In Hebrew scripture, this convention of language applies to people as much as to the divine.

On Sinai, Moses spoke with God as a man speaks with a friend, yet he wasn't allowed to get to close or see God face to face, "for no man can see God and live". The presence of the divine is signalled in powerful manifestations of natural phenomena, inspiring awe and wonder. In this context, the Torah is conveyed to Moses, stressing its absolute importance, and connection with the divine life. Calling upon God in this ancient frame of reference is an appeal to the Almighty to come and restore law and order to this chaotic world, based upon principles higher than the best and highest of ideas conceivable by the human mind. Our sense of law and order, however exalted, is derived from what is above and beyond ourselves. As time passes we continue to learn what is right and true, just and worthy of trust and honour, in the face of life's changing scenes. There are times however, when we realise "we have no power of ourselves to help our selves", and that's when hearts learn to cry out "Come and save us!"

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