Having just finished Shūsaku Endō’s Silence (1966), the novel about 17th-century Jesuit missionaries to Japan on which Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence (2016) is based, I feel free to confess that I had never even heard of the book until the movie was released this past Christmas. Its central concerns are primarily theological, zeroing in on what true Christian faith looks like, so I was intrigued to see the film’s overall favorable reception by some Christian as well as secular reviewers. Scorsese was quoted as saying that Silence was the culmination of a twenty-eight-year-old journey to bring the novel to life, and I expected some ponderous ruminations, albeit Hollywood-style, as a result. (Spoiler: After reading the book, I had no desire to see the movie.)
LORD, you want me to live upside down defying gravity
I can’t unless you hold me to the ceiling and that’s insanity
I want to keep lurching back to my feet or I’ll be dead
Floating on air with you and most of the time my head
Keeps exploding because everything is turned around
But You tell me I’m right side up and not to frown
When I can walk on water like You.
Come to the house of mourning
You will see me there
In the darkening shadows
Of the sighing halls and stairs.
Candles brighten doorways
But they never flicker strong
Though many people enter
And some may call it home.
A well-crafted poem, if I may borrow from a most famous one, is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Yet a heart of stone can melt from one ill-composed, written in a child’s hand or a lover’s, with clichés and popular idioms. The eyes of love give flight to crippled syntax as it is read, and it is treasured beyond its worth.
But it’s risky business. An ill-timed laugh or a careless reception and it’s more than paper that’s shred apart. So what is it about writing poetry, particularly love poetry, that drives us to actually take the risk and make the effort to do it? Why commit such expressiveness of emotion to printed paper or screen and endow it with longevity far beyond its expiration date when beloved eyes can no longer see and it lies discarded, bequeathed to disinterested strangers?
Ever get caught talking to yourself? It can be embarrassing! But what if someone tells you that you not only should talk to yourself, but you should do it for the kingdom of God and the glory of God?
The Cross the ladder by which God came down
to us as Friend. The Body. The Blood. The Way
by which we enter a Love we cannot comprehend.
Her voice dragged me in, this old crone
who sat in her chair rigid like a schoolgirl.
It beat against the wisteria tendrilled heat
and the cloistered darkness where we sat,
my aunt and I, me home from school to the barren
bower of her past, where jilted desires hung unspoken,
an endlessly fingered bridal dress of twisted longing.
I feel as if I’ve put it off long enough while going around in circles, thinking, thinking, thinking, feeling that it must be said, to myself and to you – if you are a Christian believer – that you and I are no different from the man on the stretcher whose sins were forgiven by the Son of God, or the woman who touched the hem of His garment and found the healing she had sought from her disease.
I’m not certain what Italian movie director Franco Zeffirelli was thinking when, in Jesus of Nazareth, he had Mary weaving on a loom in the moments just prior to her betrothal ceremony. No doubt he wanted to separate Mary from every other girl of her time, indeed all time, who would anxiously be checking every last detail of her appearance before presenting herself to her beloved, not to mention the entire village gathered together for the celebration. All eyes would be upon her, the center of attention.