This week, I’ve been sharing how the medieval monastic culture approached reading and ‘memorializing’ Scripture. I’ve been practicing what I’ve learned from the medievals (or at least my understanding of it) and applying it to my own Scripture reading time. Because I am a writer, this reading inevitably spills into a desire to internalize that scripture through my own imaging of the Word through…well…words.
The “assignment” we gave our Sunday School class last week was to apply the practice of Imaginative prayer to Psalm 27. What follows is my own (edited and smoothed out) meditation on Psalm 27. This work was generated over several days, even months, with images and impressions I remembered writing in my journal last fall, which happened to find their way into a more refined form here. I followed the medieval model: beginning with my sensory impressions, then seeking deeper understanding by paying attention what word (light!) kept popping up in those sensory writings. I followed that word around to where else it is found in the Scriptures. Then I wove all this all together into the final form you see posted below.
There were a hundred different directions I could have gone with this one word–light–alone. I’m looking forward to continuing the ever-deepening journey into every one of them. For now, it is an offering in pools of light.
Pools of Light | A Meditation on Psalm 27
He begins by proclaiming the light. But that is not what surrounds him. Darkness has encamped itself as enemies in the night. Deep forms hunched low, necks bent, gathering in number, filling out the shadows. They lie in wait, carrying daggers under their cloaks while the sour taste of rage fills the corners of their mouths. They whisper in one another’s ears, add to their indignation, hide behind anything to give them cover—a low bow, an air of deference, a smile and a greeting, “Hello, my brother.”
But he knows. He smells the violence on their breath.
And so he takes his stand in pools of light.
He sees the light as it streams through the smoke and tyranny. It comes from outside the scene yet penetrates through into his space, the same way incense infuses its atmosphere—impregnating every square inch with its holy aroma. This light is not thwarted by the darkness. Rather it streams through the darkness in golden rays so pure they are transparent except where they pour like anointing oil over his crown and down his robes, puddling at his feet, keeping him in womb-like safety, folds of protection it alone provides.
It is here, sheltered in the life of the pooling Light, where he is desperate to remain. He knows this Light: the warm wrap of its covering, its particularities and its nature. He knows it as he knows the quiet glow of his beloved’s face as she sleeps beside him every night; the slow rise and fall of her features, the subtle parting of her lips. Her beauty in the night is one of his quiet delights and favorite visitations.
But even his desire for his beloved’s rested beauty, does not compare to his desire for the beauty of the Light.
This! he cries out to the Light.
This is the only thing I’m asking for;
this one thing alone, I seek!
Let me live in your house all the days of my life.
Let me gaze upon your Beauty, the beauty of your light,
and visit you where you dwell.
Darkness continues gathering in the corners. Inky black splotches dripping closer, rivulets of ill-intension still encroaching. Does he know his reign will be marked in the history books by war?
No matter. Every day he stakes his claim in the land of the living, standing stubbornly in pools of Light.
And the Light shines upon him, making a claim of His own: “Here is one after my own heart.”
I stepped out of my office after writing the above meditation. I was a little dazed and hungover after hours of being tangled up, unraveled, and knotted up again by the onslaught and ordering of images and ideas. In my delirium, I almost missed it. There, in the open space between my living room and kitchen, there was an oblong patch of pooling light. It was that particular kind of late morning light the sun offers in the winter: slanting long and low, mellow white, quietly present and inviting, but never demanding one’s attention.
How many times have I walked out of my office and past that light? How many times have I brushed up against its beauty, and paid it no mind?
I walked over to the pooling of light on my floor, looked at it for a moment, and then stood in its middle. Immediately its warmth slowed me down and filled me up. I looked out the window from where the light was streaming. And while I could not see the rays of light themselves, by them I could see everything. I saw the clouds wisping out like cotton pulled across the pale sky. I noticed the notches lining every tree branch where last season’s leaves held fast. I beheld the shapes of the trees; the way they reach up and out, opening themselves unashamedly into their created forms, even in their winter nakedness…. Especially in their nakedness.
I’m not sure how long I stood in that pool of light. The cares of this world, I know, eventually turned my head. And yet, since that time, I’m more likely stop when I see light pooling on my floor and go stand in its middle. For when I’m dwelling in its center, I recognize its warmth as mercy; its washing over me as life.