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In the Image: “Mary’s Song” by Luci Shaw

The first in a new series exploring the beauty of poetry.

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” the psalmist says in Psalm 139, “Your works are wonderful.”

What does it mean to say that the created world is “wonderful”? We might first think of words like “amazing” and “awesome”—and those are certainly apt descriptions. But “wonderful” also means the created world causes us to wonder, to imagine, to ponder. In other words, creation makes us curious. Creation is amazing and awesome, and it is also mysterious.

One of the fundamental means of engaging our God-given sense of curiosity is through art: painting, music, sculpture, and (our focus here) poetry. By making things, we imitate one of the central characteristics of God: being a creator, a maker. Made “in the image of God,” we intrinsically desire to make things as well, and doing so can be an important act of devotion.

Consider how poet Luci Shaw engages curiosity in her poem, “Mary’s Song.” We can imagine that the impetus for the piece was curiosity about what it might be like to be Mary—to be chosen by God for a glorious task beyond comprehension and worth.

Consider how the poem also expresses Shaw’s curiosity about God’s own experience: What must it have been like for God to become human, to voluntarily experience limitations never before known to Him? “He sleeps / whose eyelids have not closed before.” This is a mystery worth pondering.

In a short space, and with moving music, Shaw explores deep theological paradoxes: a human becoming the mother of God, God becoming human, and healing brought about through violence.

 

Mary’s Song

by Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms. (Rest . . .
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly. Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by dove’s voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes,
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended,
I must see him torn.


“Mary’s Song” is reprinted from Polishing the Petoskey Stone (Regent College Publishing), Copyright © 2003 by Luci Shaw, by permission of the author.

Related Topics:  Intimacy with God

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