Saying the Name of God

Saying the Name of God November 30, 2015

morning-window1Recently, I spent a good part of three weeks promoting an event that my parish was sponsoring: sending out email blasts, networking, posting the event on Facebook. I’m on the committee that arranged the event, and I volunteered to do the advertising. As I did this tedious task, I tried to remind myself: Every moment is lived in God’s love. Somehow these moments are God’s moments.

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God,” said poet Li-Young Lee, interviewed in the current Image, #86.

Once a week, my husband and I spend an afternoon helping a young friend care for her newborn twins. We treasure these privileged moments, having the health to help her a bit, enjoying the developmental changes in the babies each week. It’s easy to feel that these afternoons are lived in God’s love.

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.”

On Friday mornings, my husband and I head out for our knitting group. It’s run by my friend Tina, who has created a small business offering knitting lessons, help clinics, sit-and-knits.

We hadn’t known any of the other members of the group before we joined, but by now we’ve all become good friends. There’s something about chatting while doing creative work with your hands: There’s a camaraderie, lots of laughter, teasing; and Tina is always there if we drop a stitch or can’t figure out a pattern instruction. Though I don’t consciously think about God during these mornings, it’s easy to feel that they’re lived in God’s love.

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.”

Living with a chronic form of leukemia that has squashed my immune system, I know that at any moment, any microbe could take over my body and carry me off. Plus I often don’t sleep well, and some days are dragged through like molasses—no, more like just-poured cement. I try to turn these days into days of prayer, but it’s not easy to be conscious of God’s love through a haze of exhaustion. Yet:

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.”

My husband and I have a little evening ritual. After dinner, we pray Evening Prayer, then move to the TV room and watch a 1950s episode of The Lone Ranger on DVD. Each episode is completely ridiculous. But it makes us laugh, and takes us out of ourselves. No matter how sleep-deprived I am, or no matter how much George’s chronic chest pain is bothering him, for twenty-five minutes we don’t notice our discomforts. Of course, we’re not thinking of God’s love during those twenty-five minutes: We’re gripped by the silly plot. But these moments are unquestionably lived in God’s love.

“I keep sensing…that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.”

Yes, I believe that everything at every moment is saying the name of God. But I wouldn’t risk trying to listen for God’s name while on my daily (internal and external weather permitting) bike ride. I have to focus all my attention on the cars: Is this car that’s racing from behind me going to swing left a bit to avoid swiping me? Is that car backing out of a driveway as I coast toward it going to pause to let me pass? If I let up my attention on drivers, I’m a goner.

But when I reach my own driveway, brake, and put both feet on the ground, I always (well, nearly always) say aloud, “Thank you.” Because truly:

“I keep sensing… that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.”

Nor am I consciously listening for God’s name as I write at my computer on energetic mornings. Like right now, this very instant. The writing process so engages me—Which word will work best here? What image do I want to develop, to play with? What ordering is most effective?—that the process happily consumes my whole being. I feel most alive when I’m writing: a post, an essay, a book.

And when the morning’s work is done and I’m free to hear the world saying God’s name: do I stop to listen? Do I say “Thank you”? Not as often as I should. Because I do want to keep sensing…

“that the whole world is every moment saying the name of God.”

And this, I’m sure, is why I read poetry. As Li-Young Lee puts it in this interview: Poetry is “the condition of language when it is influenced by the sacred experience.”

He has some marvelous terms for poetry’s link to the sacred: “Everything is saturated with God. So the sacred condition of meaning in a poem seems to me a perfect paradigm of mind and world. The saturation of meaning and being in a poem exactly mirrors the saturation of meaning and being in the cosmos.” It’s a “condition of embeddedness in God.”

Saturation. Embeddedness. I do sense this in Lee’s own poetry. As in these lines from one of his poems in this same issue of Image, “Folding a Five-Cornered Star So the Corners Meet” (ellipses are mine):

This sadness I feel tonight is not my sadness…

This loneliness is Nobody’s. Nobody’s lonely
because Nobody was never born
and will never die…

For so many years, I answered to a name,
and I can’t say who answered…

This sleeplessness is not my sleeplessness.
It must be the stars’ insomnia.
And I am their earthbound descendent.

Someone, Anyone, No One, me, and Someone Else.
Five in a bed, and none of us can sleep.
Five in one body, begotten, not made.
And the sorrow we bear together is none of ours.
Maybe it’s Yours, God.


Peggy Rosenthal is director of Poetry Retreats and writes widely on poetry as a spiritual resource. Her books include Praying through Poetry: Hope for Violent Times (Franciscan Media), and The Poets’ Jesus (Oxford). See Amazon for a full list. She also teaches an online course, “Poetry as a Spiritual Practice,” through Image’s Glen Online program.

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