Selah

This morning I began to arrange little white roses in a vase for my wife’s birthday. I discovered one of the roses had been damaged within the cellophane wrapping, and as I removed them, it’s little pale head tumbled to the floor. In a poignant moment (which I admit was tinged with a certain sentimentalism) I felt sad for the little rose: separated from its brothers, unable to stand proudly atop it’s once taut stem in the cool clear water, smiling at the world for a few proud days. He would fade quicker than his friends, tossed unceremoniously onto the compost heap, an ignoble fate shared with vegetable peelings and grass cuttings.

Initially I discarded it, then thought better of it, and placed it in a small chinese ceramic dish beside the vase.

Vaguely, Bible stories and parables told by christ flitted through my mind, something about more rejoicing amongst the angels over one lost soul returned than those who had never strayed, or was it a lost sheep, or perhaps a little bird falling to the ground and God knowing all about it; a prodigal son who’d squandered his inheritance returning to be greeted by his rejoicing father, and a prophet named Hosea marrying a woman who subsequently left him to become a temple prostitute (yet lovingly taking her back and caring for her) …  I can’t remember exactly which is which. The stories run into one other, confused and indistinct yet insistent: what remains of their narratives is this sense that none is lost, not one, that the broken and apparently useless vessel is neither discarded nor lost but may be filled anew so to speak.

In some way I cannot adequately articulate,  I feel that the rose is a metaphor for apokatastasis, ἀποκατάστασις, the return, the restoration spoken of by St. Gregory of Nyssa, of Origen, of Clement of Alexandria. By Jesus.

Source: http://www.brill.com/christian-doctrine-apokatastasis and: Ilaria Ramelli, The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena 

Of course, none of this is capable of being rationalalized: words are symbols, inadequate at best, our attempt to name the un-nameable.

Perhaps the rose is just a rose: why seek meanings and metaphors?

To attempt to rationalize a mystery is, finally, a fruitless endeavor: before mystery our most appropriate response may be silence born of intellectual humility. The Psalmist (and Habakkuk too, I think) express this as the hebrew סֶלָה‎‎, Selah, “pause, and think of that”.

Think of that, Selah.

Apokatastasis is mystery: “Christ is all, and in all” (Saint Paul, in his letter to the Colossians).

Perhaps it is this longing for apokatastasis that makes a foolish man pick up a broken flower, and what makes God pick up a broken man.

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5 thoughts on “Selah

  1. Farrell Williams

    Wow what a profound piece of writing this is.

    Such detailed thoughts reminds me of Christ & how he would challenge the “all knowing minds of wise men”

    Key words for me :

    Apocatastasis (/æpoʊkəˈtæstəsᵻs/; from Greek: ἀποκατάστασις, also anglicized as apokatastasis) is reconstitution, restitution, or restoration to the original or primordial condition
    “Perhaps it is this longing for apokatastasis that makes a foolish man pick up a broken flower, and what makes God pick up a broken man.”
    Thanks for sharing SH.

    Luke 18:9-14New International Version (NIV)

    The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
    9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

    13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Farrell, I so value your response.

      A little seed pushed through the soil, became a sapling, and then a tree growing with vitality in the sunshine of the Holy Land. At the same time, Jesus was but a baby in Bethlehem, then a youth in Nazareth, a man in Jerusalem. The tree was cut down and fashioned into a cross: it pressed against his weary shoulders, and held him when there was none else to hold Him. How strange to think that the closest thing to Christ’s body at the end was this felled, hewn and forgotten tree. God created trees – and I believe that in the
      “apokatastasis”, where Christ is “in all”, where He will call all things unto Himself”, nature too will be freed from the curse. Christ is Risen: what hope we have! On one blog I read, “In the imagery of the prophets there is a curse on the earth…. In a figurative and physical sense, the earth groans as a result of the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel. Romans 8 turns this dark image around to an eager expectation of the renewal that comes through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to Scripture, and thereby through the renewed children of God, transformed by the working of the grace of God.”

      (Selah)

      🙂

      Like

    1. The roses were from a little greengrocer shop, owned by a Portuguese family. The shop has been there for many years, and It reminds me a little of the once commonplace (but now unfortunately rare) Portuguese “cafés” of my youth – minus the pinball machines and fish and chip fryers. The vegetables are not the standardized, sanitized produce of “WW”, but more honest, imperfect varieties, with traces of authentic soil and evidence of the ravages of nature. The shop smells of onions, garlic and firewood, Portuguese potbread, a pungent citrus scent from freshly squeezed oranges, and the smell of cut flowers. And it was in this shop that I found a bunch of white roses…

      Like

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