Thinking And Praying Over Jerusalem
Light me a candle in the Holy City of my heart. And I will stand by it as the smoke ascends to heaven. Light me a candle in the Holy City of my soul. And I will keep it warm even when I cannot see the flame. Light me a candle in the deepest current of my senses, in the thundering of horse’s hooves, in the chariot of fire, in the song of the arrow from the bow, and the scream of ancients dead, and let that be my song to Thee for mercy on us all, for justice for us all! Let Jerusalem be the path of my tears, drawn from my eyes for love of the One who made the seas stained with salt, tossing with life, or draining out dead. You are the beginning that runs to the end, and the end that brings about new beginning. Bring it to us now out of our barrenness.
The sound of Hebrew and Arabic is as strong to me as Latin in my ears. And, O my God, have you not seen us all here, all of us, Your children? Are we so very different, we who submit to Thee? Are we different we who have poured out our blood, too often in Your name, too often thinking You asked it of us, when it was we, ourselves, who could not see You in the eyes of others? When will we stop seeing You solely in the possession of earth and stone, in cities of everything and nothing, and see You instead in the blood that pulses to the heart, that circulates in the consciousness of our souls, that lives and moves and grounds us in our being? When will we see You in the justice owed and the mercy given?
When will we stop seeking the living among the dead? When will we find that in so many ways You have come to us, and we have seen You not? When will we find that You are there in all the names giving to us in our many languages, in our holy books, to any of Your creatures, and even in those names You keep most hidden in the bosom of Your being, in the cloud of unknowing? When will we love You for Your mystery, instead of for our labels that lash out against the truth that stands before us in bloodied rejection, crowned with desert thorns? Will we ever know the taste of Thee, the drink sent down from unseen hands, the Subtle One, who knows the delicate meaning of everything?
When will we remember that there is no God but God, there is no only but the Only, no pride to be grasped, no plunder to be taken, nothing but Thee, no heaven, no hell, no unity, or separation, but that which is found and takes its form in Thee? When will we seek only Thee, and allow all else to fade? When will we see these dry bones of broken intent take on the flesh of fullness again, of presence before the breath of the universe that moves in and through us, that moves the wind through the chanter, to make an instrument for the divine? When will we feel the souls of the past meet their marriage, that we might know their bliss? When shall we cast ourself upon the flame of the Self-Subsisting, that this moth’s wings may be burned?
Shall we continue this path, I wonder, down through the ages, and peel it back to find bold, hot-tempered Richard and noble, keen-minded Saladin facing off again? Shall the political battles of today carry on ancestral struggles, pitting us one against the other again? Are we, of East and West, so sure we are always in the right? Are we lions still on the prowl, or shall honey yet be found between the red-striped-ribs? Shall we cease scoring our points long enough to remember the humanity of it all, to know that perhaps there is a substance in us that feeds our deepest dreams and fuels our imaginings, our archetypes and primordial memories? Are we so very different, so very similar we cannot see it anymore? Are we being beckoned by the Voice within us, that calls so often, and yet we cannot hear?
My God, my God, where are You? What is Truth? In my brother, in my sister, in front of me! In the cry across the sea of an exiled people who see their temple razed, and the cry from the strip of a displaced people who see the fruits of their labor lost. It is the same cry, the same loss, inflicted and inflictors mesh and meld, the condemners and the condemned, and we are left with the cry from the cross, and the cry rent from so many bloods shed that never may know sleep.
“Why quote you the words of a religion not your own?” they ask of me. Because my religion is the essence of God’s seed in the womb of Humanity, which is the indwelling of love, and that love reaches down and reaches out, and binds and we are all part of the ribbon that ties the knot. It is the sash girding the womb of the Virgin Miriam, who unites we three strands of a tradition rooted in a place beyond place, in a city beyond cities, the only prayer to be offered, at the threshold of our love.