Apr. 16, 2006

Descending Theology: The Garden

by Mary Karr

SUNDAY, 16 APRIL, 2006
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Poem: "Descending Theology: The Garden" by Mary Karr from Sinners Welcome: Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Descending Theology: The Garden

We know he was a man because, once doomed,
   he begged for reprieve. See him
grieving on his rock under olive trees,
   his companions asleep
on the hard ground around him
   wrapped in old hides.
Not one stayed awake as he'd asked.
   That went through him like a sword.
He wished with all his being to stay
   but gave up
bargaining at the sky. He knew
   it was all mercy anyhow,
unearned as breath. The Father couldn't intervene,
   though that gaze was never
not rapt, a mantle around him. This
   was our doing, our death.
The dark prince had poured the vial of poison
   into the betrayer's ear,
and it was done. Around the oasis where Jesus wept,
   the cracked earth radiated out for miles.
In the green center, Jesus prayed for the pardon
   of Judas, who was approaching
with soldiers, glancing up—as Christ was—into
   the punctured sky till his neck bones
ached. Here is his tear-riven face come
   to press a kiss on his brother.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of writer Anatole France, (books by this author) born in Paris (1844). He said, "When a thing has been said and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it."

It's the birthday of playwright John Millington Synge, (books by this author) born in a village just south of Dublin, Ireland (1871). He was in Paris, writing literary criticism when he met the poet William Butler Yeats. Yeats told him that instead of trying to work his way into literary circles in Paris, he should go to the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland and write about the Irish-speaking peasants who lived there. Yeats said, "Express a life that has never found expression."

So, in 1898, Synge went the Aran Islands and he spent the next four summers there. He explored the craggy, barren landscape, took notes on the Irish language, and wrote down the folktales of the islanders. In 1907, he published an account of his time there, and the material he gathered formed the basis for his two most successful plays, Riders to the Sea (1903) and The Playboy of the Western World (1907).

It's the birthday of the first filmmaker to have complete control over the movies he made, writing, directing and starring in them, and that was Charlie Chaplin, born in London (1889). It was in 1914 that he debuted his most famous character, the Little Tramp, who's always beaten down by life, always the butt of the jokes, but who never gives up his optimism. Chaplin saw the character as a bum who dreams he is a gentleman. He said, "That is why, no matter how desperate the predicament is, I am always very much in earnest about clutching my cane, straightening my derby hat and fixing my tie, even though I have just landed on my head."

Today is Easter Sunday in the Christian church, the holiday that commemorates Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead.

The Gospel of Mark (16:2–7) reads, "And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?' And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back."

Easter is one of the few floating holidays in the calendar year, because it's based on the cycles of the moon. Jesus was said to have risen from the dead on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. For that reason, Easter can fall as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th.

The word "Easter" comes from an ancient pagan goddess worshipped by Anglo Saxons named Eostre. According to legend, Eostre once saved a bird whose wings had frozen during the winter by turning the bird into a rabbit. Because the rabbit had once been a bird, it could still lay eggs, and that rabbit became our Easter Bunny.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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