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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Stillborn

Rosalind Hore
One of the wonderful things about living on the water is that you become more aware of the tides and the rhythm of life.

There is a stillness, in between the tides, when the whole round earth seems to rest in between cycles.

The water is neither going out nor coming in. There are no waves or even ripples in the water.

Even the air is still. Heavy, it seems, with the salty-pungent-acrid-musty odors of the water at rest.

Every sense tells you that the world is still and silent, and yet the intellect informs you that this is not - can not be - the case.

It's a bit like the moment every woman I've ever known, who, at the end of her pregnancy - when the baby begins to settle down, down, deep in the pelvis to get ready for birth - begins to worry because she can not feel the baby move.

She dares not speak the word and yet it dances 'round and 'round in her head which she willfully blocks from slipping into her mouth and tripping over her tongue.

Stillborn.

Soon enough, she will begin to realize that it is just an illusion - a series of small, insignificant moments of quiet and calm which can build toward a sense of panic - that will, eventually, be shattered by the reality of the incoming tide of labor.

Which has been coming. And, going. Anyway. There is nothing to be done to stop it or prevent it. It is the way it is. And has been. And will be. World without end. Amen.

There was such a moment of stillness in the tides when I arose from my bed, early this morning, and looked out my bedroom window to see the sun rise on the water.

I thought of the baptism of Jesus which we celebrate on today's liturgical calendar. I wondered if the waters were still when he stepped into the River Jordan to be baptized by his cousin, John.

John, we are told, leaped in his mother Elizabeth's womb as Mary approached.  Did he know - then - in the placental waters in which he swam that he would, one day, baptize Mary's son into the living waters of a life of faith?

As I settled in for my morning meditation, a memory of a poem came to visit.

There is a point where in the mystery of
existence contradictions meet;
where movement is not all movement
and stillness is not all stillness;
where the idea and the form,
the within and the without, are united;
where infinite becomes finite,
yet not losing its infinity.
- Tagore

Such, I think, was the moment of the baptism of Jesus.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe that the moment of baptism was the moment when Jesus received his divinity. Not before. No, that is heresy to them. Never mind that it is heresy to most of the rest of Western Christendom.

The Baptism of Jesus, they believe, was his 'quickening' into divine life eternal.

Before that, he had been 'stillborn'.

Born 'still' only to become fully alive at baptism.

Reborn at baptism to be resurrected in death.

Mystery lies in the seeming contradictions of life.

When the 'within and the without' are united.

I have come to believe that the stillness of the tides give us a glimpse into one of those mysteries.

Which is, no doubt, heresy to most of the rest of Western Christendom.

It is comforting to know that I'm in the company of other good 'orthodox' heretic Christians, who embrace and celebrate all of the mysteries of all of life. 

At other times, we just sit quietly in awe.

Stillborn between the tides.

Born in a gush of placental waters.

Reborn in baptismal waters.

Dying, yet behold, we live.

Awaiting resurrection.

It is the way it is. And has been. And will be. World without end. Amen.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and am really enjoying it - just thought I'd say thanks for another great post! It makes me think of the moment in the baptism when the priest holds the baby and gently lowers her toward the baptismal font and everyone holds their breath. I know they're mostly waiting to see if the baby screams, but sometimes I wonder if they realize they're actually waiting for something much bigger to happen. That quiet (almost frighteningly still) anticipation is definitely one of my favorite parts of any Episcopal Church liturgy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Unknown. Please come again, and leave your name - a name - at the end.

Taylor said...

Oops! Sorry for the anonymous comment - I had my settings wrong...
Taylor