A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Wedding: Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

By Danielle Leshaw 

Water DrippingJudaism tells us how to leave.

Leaving the Sabbath. Leaving Israel. Leaving a marriage. Leaving life. We have rituals and words of prayer and entire theologies and words of wisdom about departure. Sometimes we leave with candles and sweet smells. Other times we depart with a divine request for safety as we journey. When leaving our spouse, we sign legal documents and ritualize the end just as we ritualized the beginning. And other times, at death, for instance, we depart with confessing all our sins. It’s only then that we’re ready to enter the next world.

But we have no ritual for leaving Judaism itself. There is no escort. There are no words of blessing. Nobody holds your hand and wishes you well, bestowing you with gifts for the next phase of life.

Sitting in church, I prayed. I stared long and hard at the enormous Jesus with his leg bent ever so slightly, with the white linen loincloth, with his head hung and his eyes closed, blood dripping, draped on the cross. Dear Jesus, please show me what to do right now. I just need some clarity. [Read more…]

A Rabbi, a Priest, and a Wedding: Part 1

By Danielle Leshaw

JudaismFather Bill offered a set of instructions. “Walk beside me, never on my left, but always on my right.”

I nodded.

“And we’re walking towards Jesus.” He pointed across the church. “Shall we practice?”

“Yes, please,” I answered.

We processed up the aisle, an elderly priest and a young, female rabbi. I matched his steps. His brown frock went swish-swish while the long, braided belt knocked against his knees. It was a long path, from the entrance doors of the church up the aisle to the ornate dais. This gave me time to look around. The Stations of the Cross were divided up around the big room, white pedestals with hammered copper sculptures of Jesus during his final moments. It was a sunny morning. The skylights streamed light beams. Every Jesus, big or small, hanging or standing or crouching or sitting, was illuminated. And as if by divine command, there were little specs of glitter dust in each ray of light. [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “Divine Wrath” by Adélia Prado

Bird on branchMultiple members of my family live with chronic pain, which is why I’m always arrested by writers who don’t let God off the hook for painful experiences, who question suffering more closely. Can we know who is ultimately responsible for suffering? Does suffering have a purpose (and if it does, why does it so often feel senseless)? Most importantly, how do we move through pain and cause less of it ourselves? The narrator of this poem shows pain reducing us to our most animal selves—like “a dog who’s been beaten”—and yet we, unlike animals, are able to ask our owners: “Why do you beat me?” On one level, that question sits on the page like an unanswered cry to the heavens, recalling Job. On another level, we’re encouraged to aim this question at ourselves in the mirror—because it seems possible that if we are divinely inspired, we are capable of our own forms of “divine wrath.” What I love about this poem is that, in the end, the act of questioning helps us transcend the need for answers. The perpetrator and victim dissolve into each other in one shocking prayer: “May whoever hurt me, forgive me.”

—Tyler McCabe


“Divine Wrath” By Adélia Prado

When I was wounded
whether by God, the devil, or myself
—I don’t know yet which—
it was seeing the sparrows again
and clumps of clover, after three days,
that told me I hadn’t died.
When I was young,
all it took were those sparrows,
those lush little leaves,
for me to sing praises,
dedicate operas to the Lord.
But a dog who’s been beaten
is slow to go back to barking
and making a fuss over his owner
—an animal, not a person
like me who can ask:
Why do you beat me?
Which is why, despite the sparrows and the clover,
a subtle shadow still hovers over my spirit.
May whoever hurt me, forgive me.

Translated from the Brazilian Portuguese by Ellen Doré Watson

 

Adélia Prado is one of the foremost poets of Brazil, praised both in literary circles and the mainstream media. The author of six books of poetry and six of prose, Prado was praised byVeja (Brazil’s Newsweek) as “a writer of rare brilliance and invincible simplicity.” The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems of Adélia Prado, translated by Ellen Doré Watson, was published by Wesleyan in 1990.

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Dancing on the Way to Prison

By John Bryant

Worshipping HandsI’m standing in a circle with thirty singing and swaying old men and we hold each other’s hands because of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and signal the presence of His Spirit by fluttering our fingers during certain parts of the song, the fluttering strange at first and then completely appropriate and satisfying.

There is an old man in front of me with wide forehead and dark eyes and he is bald and tall and strong and he is dancing. He shakes his hips and leaps on one leg and then the other in those impossible khaki shorts he wears in winter, and he looks like he would’ve been a murderer or bouncer or head of a biker gang if he’d not been made a perfect child and clown by the Holy Spirit.

We release hands and begin another song, and these strong old men fold their hands behind their backs like little children holding flowers for girls and they put their voices into the middle of the circle where the song gathers like a creature rising out from fire and for all their gruff, worn appearance the singing is impossibly loud, sincere, and generous. [Read more…]

Praying the Rosary

By Laura Bramon

RosaryMy first rosary is invisible: a string of children’s voices ricocheting off the concrete walls of a slum convent, flying up to God and to the cold gray batting of the Altiplano sky. The children’s eyes are chapped with wind and cold, lines feathered like wings in their brown skin. This gives them a mask of wisdom: as if they can see beyond what I see, as if they can see God.

They see His Mother alive in the tiny concrete woman in the outdoor niche, to whom we herd them so they can bark their prayers. Sweet children, whose soft heads smell of moss and cold, whose breath is warm and gluey with the dried milk we feed them. First, we train the sucker feet of their lips to the tipped cups; we place in their hands the round, fleshy little loaves of bread they rip up and eat.

And then we line them up and walk them out into the sunlight to say the rosary in their backwater Spanish. I stand in their midst and stare at a woman I don’t know, her mantel draped like a crenulated shell, the warmth of the children’s bodies like a shuffling tide lapping at my hands and knees. I learn the prayers from the children’s mouths and we shout them out to her. [Read more…]


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