When Barykh came to those
Words in the psalm which read:
‘I will not give sleep to mine eyes,
nor slumber to mine eyelids until
I find a place for the Lord,’ he
Stopped and said to himself:
‘Until I find myself and make
Myself a place to be ready
For the descending of the
- Tales of the Hasidim
There are varying understandings of Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus, swirling in our consciousness. Arguments about whether Jesus was physically raised from the dead have often led to immediate rejection of one who did not hold the same views. They often precluded any search for common ground. For some it is not important whether Jesus’ body came forth from the tomb. For others, their Christianity rests upon it.
Today, I would like to use a different approach to the meaning of the death and life of Jesus as seen through the eyes and language of a poet, Kahlil Gibran. A poet is one whose imaginative nature pierces through apparent facts to reveal or unveil the essence of life. In his beautiful and provocative book, Jesus The Son of Man, Gibran imaginatively allows contemporaries of Jesus to speak about Jesus. Not all are admirers of the Nazarene. The excerpt below brings the book to an end, creating a beginning for us to reflect in new ways upon the meaning of the life of Jesus for his time and our own from a distance of nineteen centuries.
The word “Master” refers to revered teacher, leader, religious figure, not master as in slave master. Dr. Howard Thurman often referred to Jesus as the Master with utmost respect. One of his favorite hymns was O Master Let Me Walk with Thee.
A Man From Lebanon: Nineteen Centuries Afterwards
by Kahlil Gibran
Master, Master Singer, Master of words unspoken, Seven times was I born, and seven times have I died, Since your hasty visit and our brief welcome. And behold I live again, Remembering a day and a night among the hills, When your tide lifted us up. Thereafter many lands and many seas did I cross, And wherever I was led by saddle or sail Your name was prayer or argument. Men would bless you or curse you; The curse, a protest against failure, The blessing, a hymn of the hunter Who comes back from the hills With provision for his mate.
Your friends are yet with us for comfort and support, And your enemies also, for strength and assurance. Your mother is with us; I have beheld the sheen of her face in the countenance of all mothers; Her hand rocks cradles with gentleness, Her hand folds shrouds with tenderness. And Mary Magdalen is yet in our midst, She who drank the vinegar of life, and then its wine. And Judas, the man of pain and small ambitions, He too walks the earth; Even now he preys upon himself when his hunger finds naught else, And seeks his larger self in self-destruction.
And John, he whose youth loved beauty is here, And he sings though unheeded. And Simon Peter the impetuous, who denied you that he might live longer for you, He too sits by our fire. He may deny you again ere the dawn of another day, Yet he would be crucified for your purpose, and deem himself unworthy of the honour. And Caiaphas and Annas still live their day, And judge the guilty and the innocent. They sleep upon their feathered bed Whilst he whom they have judged is whipped with the rods. And the woman who was taken in adultery, She too walks the streets of our cities, And hungers for bread not yet baked, And she is alone in an empty house. And Pontius Pilatus is here also: He stands in awe before you, And still questions you, But he dares not risk his station or defy an alien race; And he is still washing his hands. Even now Jerusalem holds the basin and Rome the ewer, And betwixt the two a thousand thousand hands would be washed to whiteness.
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Master, Master Poet, Master of words sung and spoken, They have builded temples to house your name, And upon every height they have raised your cross, A sign and a symbol to guide their wayward feet, But not unto your joy. Your joy is a hill beyond their vision, And it does not comfort them. They would honour the man unknown to them. And what consolation is there in a man like themselves, a man whose kindliness is like their own kindliness, A god whose love is like their own love, And whose mercy is in their own mercy? They honour not the man, the living man, The first man who opened His eyes and gazed at the sun With eyelids unquivering. Nay, they do not know Him, and they would not be like Him.
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They would be unknown, walking in the procession of the unknown. They would bear sorrow, their sorrow, And they would not find comfort in your joy. Their aching heart seeks not consolation in your words and the song thereof. And their pain, silent and unshapen, Makes them creatures lonely and unvisited. Though hemmed about by kin and kind, They live in fear, uncomraded; Yet they would not be alone. They would bend eastward when the west wind blows.
They call you king, And they would be in your court. They pronounce you the Messiah, And they would themselves be anointed with the holy oil. Yea, they would live upon your life.
-- ## --
Master, Master Singer, Your tears were like the showers of May, And your laughter like the waves of the white sea. When you spoke, your words were the far-off whisper of their lips when those lips should be kindled with fire; You laughed for the marrow in their bones that was not yet ready for laughter; And you wept for their eyes that yet were dry; Your voice fathered their thoughts and their understanding; Your voice mothered their words and their breath.
-- ## --
Seven times was I born and seven times have I died, And now I live again, and I behold you, The fighter among fighters, The poet of poets, King above all kings, A man half-naked with your road-fellows. Every day the bishop bends down his head When he pronounces your name; And every day the beggars say: "For Jesus' sake Give us a penny to buy bread." We call upon each other, But in truth we call upon you, Like the flood tide in the spring of our want and desire, And when our autumn comes, like the ebb tide. High or low, your name is upon our lips, The Master of infinite compassion.
-- ## --
Master, Master of our lonely hours, Here and there, betwixt the cradle and the coffin, I meet your silent brothers, The free men, unshackled, Sons of your mother earth and space. They are like the birds of the sky, And like the lilies of the field. They live your life and think your thoughts, And they echo your song. But they are empty-handed, And they are not crucified with the great crucifixion. And therein is their pain. The world crucifies them every day, But only in little ways. The sky is not shaken, And the earth travails not with her dead. They are crucified and there is none to witness their agony; They turn their face to right and left And find not one to promise them a station in his kingdom. Yet they would be crucified again and yet again, That your God may be their God, And your Father their Father.
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Master, Master Lover, The Princess awaits your coming in her fragrant chamber, And the married unmarried woman in her cage; The harlot who seeks bread in the streets of her shame, And the nun in her cloister who has no husband; The childless woman too at her window, Where frost designs the forest on the pane, She finds you in that symmetry, And she would mother you, and be comforted.
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Master, Master Poet, Master of our silent desires, The heart of the world quivers with the throbbing of your heart, But it burns not with your song. The world sits listening to your voice in tranquil delight But it rises not from its seat To scale the ridges of your hills. Man would dream your dream, but he would not wake to your dawn, Which is his greater dream. He would see with your vision, But he would not drag his heavy feet to your throne; Yet many have been enthroned in your name And mitred with your power, And have turned your golden visit Into crowns for their head and sceptres for their hand.
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Master, Master of Light, Whose eye dwells in the seeking fingers of the blind, You are still despised and mocked, A man too weak and infirm to be God, A God too much man to call forth adoration. Their mass and their hymn, Their sacrament and their rosary, are for their imprisoned self. You are their yet distant self, their far-off cry, and their passion.
-- ## --
But Master, Sky-heart, Knight of our fairer dream, You do still tread this day; Nor bows nor spears shall stay your steps; You walk through all our arrows. You smile down upon us, And though you are the youngest of us all You father us all. Poet, Singer, Great Heart, May our God bless your name, And the womb that held you, and the breasts that gave you milk. And may God forgive us all.
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