Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I found Him Whom my heart and soul love; I held Him and I will not let Him go.

I'm less than a month away from the defense of my thesis, and am currently working on the final draft of that thesis. I am very busy, to say the least, so I apologize if my posting is sporadic. Below is the post I meant for Easter. Above is a picture of me on my second Easter in a pale pink dress, my favorite color as a child. Didn't my parents have great shag green carpeting? At least they could monitor my height.

When I was a young child, on Easter Sunday my family would go to Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter for beignets. It is right next to the Mississippi River, so we could see the sun gradually rising higher in the sky over the West Bank (because of the way the Mississippi curves in N.O., the West Bank is across the river and east of the Central Business District and French Quarter - it flows northward). Covered in powdered sugar, we then walked through Jackson Square and in front of St. Louis Cathedral.

For me as a child, decked out in pink dress, white patent leather shoes with bows, and jewelry decorated with flowers (I was such a girly-girl), Jackson Square was the perfect place to dream of a fairy-tale prince. In the right mid-morning lighting, St. Louis Cathedral bears the faintest of resemblances to Cinderella's Castle at Disneyworld, and Jackson Square is the flower-filled garden right outside the gates. The perfect place for Mary Magdalene to look for the Lord, and mistake him for a gardener. Adding to the image were the society women who would parade through the French Quarter on Easter Sunday in horse-drawn carriages on their way to Sunday Mass at the Cathedral. Royalty, going to greet the Savior on the first day of a new world.

I will rise then and go about the city;
In the streets and crossing I will seek Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
As they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
When I found Him whom my heart loves.
I took hold of him and would not let him go. Song of Songs 3:2-4

I loved to get dressed up, walk near those trees and by those emerald green hedges - and I love grass that looks velvety - and dream of encountering a prince. (The sugar high from the beignets also helped.) In the Disney cartoon fairy tales, the princess almost always meets her prince in the darkness, whether it be of death (Sleeping Beauty and Snow White) or of twilight (Cinderella). However, they must await the triumphal ringing of bells and the new morn that their love brings.

Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened:
seek His face evermore. Psalm 105:4

In numerous symphonies, those bells toll to symbolize death, and celebration. But it's the upwards arpeggios that really get me. Upwards arpeggios, when performed slowly and deliberately, are the clouds slowing parting in the sky to make way for the sun. Performed fast, they are the flutterings of the heart in love. In Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, over and over again that F sharp pierces the otherworld where beautiful maidens are trapped in the bodies of swans, and suggests the hovering between tragedy (B minor) and happiness (B major). Finally, after the double suicide of Odette and Siegfried, the dawn comes, and the lovers are united as the strings trill in the key of B major.

There's a cheery secular song written in the 30's that I think encapsulates this feeling, this joy of finding the beloved, and refusing to let Him go:

Dear when you smiled at me,
I heard a melody
It haunted me from the start!
Something inside of me
Started a symphony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart!

I still recall the thrill
I guess I always will
I hope 'twill never depart
All nature seemed to be
In perfect harmony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart

St. Gregory Nazienzen wrote of the soul: organum pulsatum a Spiritu Sancto. When the Holy Spirit is there, your heart and soul trill with joy. Before you find Him, it is darkness. But when you do, you cannot let Him go.

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63: 1-8

P.S. Titian's
Noli me tangere is already featured on my blog. I've always liked Thomas Wyatt's secular use of the phrase is in "Whoso list to hunt..." For those unfamiliar with it, the white hind in the verse has a diamond inscription on its collar that reads: "Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am, And wild for to hold, though I seem tame." The rumor is that the hind was Anne Boleyn, and Henry VIII was Caesar. Wyatt may have been quite infatuated with Anne (shh! they may have been lovers!), and he was in prison when she got her head chopped off.


Anonymous said...

Cute Pic

Nice blog and I shall visit again

By the way we are discussing one of your blog entries.
Well trying to discuss it but you know it goes off topic.

Perhaps I can post one of your illuminating pieces on Catholcism on their but infort I find I am fighting a losing battle on the LS political board on that front


Anonymous said...


Oops correct link above

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

This made me think of a conversation that I had last night, and it is very true what you say here. We tend to divide divine joy and secular joy, we tend to divide divine love and secular love, and it never, ever like that. It was St. Ireneus who said that the glory of God is a man fully alive, and the life of man is to see God. Thank you again for a post that makes us see that God is so much closer to us than we would like to think. He is indeed between every breath, every ray of sun, and every echo of the birds' call in the branches. He is even in powdered sugar!

AG said...


Welcome, and thank you for the compliments. Unfortunately, I'm a bit too busy right now to engage in the discussion on your board.

But I will clarify a few things. The quote "It is a sign of white privilege to be able to 'see' blackness and black culture from a standpoint where only the rich culture of opposition black people have created in resistance marks and defines us," is from bell hooks' "Madonna: Plantation Mistress or Soul Sister," an essay included in her book "Outlawing Culture: Resisting Representations." (hooks would classify Madonna as a plantation mistress, using associations with blacks in her videos, on stage, and in statements to show 'just what a special white girl she is,' and thereby reinforcing notions of white supremacy.) hooks is generally referring to the tendency of white Americans to see black culture as 'cool,' and specifically, Madonna's own statements that she wanted to be black as a child. The 'white privilege' in that context is the ability to stand outside of black culture, judge it, and choose what is desirable about it while never being engaged in or acknowledging the pain that is often at the root of expression in the black community, or the active engagement in and/or complicity of whites in the oppression and exploitation of blacks that has generated that pain.

From the black perspective, black culture in America arose out of the subjugation of our ancestors, and it's the height of insult and injury for the white community, historically responsible for that subjugation, to then co-opt elements of black culture and say how "cool" it is.

And of course, the entire notion of race is a construct that whites developed for several reasons, not the least of which was in order to subjugate blacks. It is also 'white privilege' to deny the subjective experience of blacks and make statements like "racism doesn't exist and play a role in the average community," even though almost every black person, including myself, knows that is rubbish. But it is the same assumption that the black experience can be denied that whites have been indoctrinated in for over 400 years, so it's not surprising. You don't ask a white person "do you think racism still exists?" because his or her answer is largely worthless - whites are not the ones in a position in America to experience the detrimental effects of it, nor do they comprise the majority of victims of it.

In LA, the law demanding that racial classification be included on everyone's birth certificate and that anyone with 1/32 or more of black ancestry be classified as black was on the books until 1985 (after I was born), until it was challenged by a woman (Susie Guillory) who had thought she was white her whole life, only to discover that on her birth certificate, she was classified as black. Blacks, of course, did not write such laws, and one of the goals was to keep whites "pure," and to keep anyone with African ancestry "identified" and under the oppression of the white community in LA. That's why to now consider myself 'white,' just because I can, would be a lie. It's not the experience of my family, it's not how they were forced to classify themselves, and it actually supports the notion that race is a meaningful construct. If racial classifications mean nothing, then it should mean nothing that I am black. The fact that whites nonetheless ask me why I don't consider/call myself white instead implies that that they want to classify blacks in some way that I do not easily fit into, and it also means that to the whites asking such a question, racial classification is still a useful and meaningful construct. I've certainly never been asked by a black person, "why not call yourself white?"

AG said...

Back on topic, P-I, it is really that I'm just so wedded to the secular. MTV generation and all, ya know.

Seriously, you know I have a thing for the Jewish perspective on Genesis, according to which God created everything in forms that were impermanent
(lacking in stability) and suspended. Rashi contended that God made and unmade several worlds before the creation in Genesis Chapter 1. On the sixth day He sees this created world is "very good," worthy of keeping according to some commentators, and so on the seventh day He "rested." The Hebrew word used there, vayinafash, is related to the word, nefesh, that means soul. So He imbues His soul into creation on the first Sabbath, and gives creation permanence. Creation is only stable after this infusion, it is a body without a soul before this. It becomes unstable again after the Fall, but that of course does not negate the original act of creation. But humanity has the mission of re-stabilizing the world: one midrash records Isaiah 43:1 as "My world, my world, I shall tell you who created you, who formed you….Who created you: Jacob. Who formed you: Israel." The point being that we cannot shut ourselves off the works and constructions of this world we live in and the works of our brothers and sisters, for they are immensely important.

CrimsonCatholic said...

Thank you for taking time at an extraordinarily busy moment (I know from experience) to post such a delightful image. That just how I always remember Jackson Square: magical. It's funny, because I have season passes to Disneyland now, and an actual fairyland castle seems like a pale shadow of what I remember.

I remember this one night I went to see a play in the Quarter, and we walked by Faulkner House on a cool night with just a breath of a drizzle, and I thought "This is Acadie, and I am walking in its magical mists." That memory of New Orleans has never left me, and I don't imagine that it ever will.

Nice bit about Genesis, too. It reminds me so much of my own understanding of quantum mechanics that it's frightening. It's the feeling that you were thinking another's thoughts after him, which is always a little disconcerting from the individual perspective. But ISTM that the whole point of your observation was that the individual perspective needs to be disconcerted, because it isn't reality.