Stammering

I read it in your word, learn it from the story

of those gestures with which your hands

cupped themselves around each fledgling thing —

warm, encompassing, wise.

You pronounced live strongly and die softly

and ceaselessly repeated: Be.

But before the first death murder came.

With a rent tore through your perfect circles

and a scream broke in

and scattered all those voices

that had just come together

to sing to you,

to carry you about,

their bridge over all abysses —

  .

And what they have been stammering since

are fragments

of your ancient name.

– Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Hours translated by Edward Snow


There was an earthquake in Nepal today. Last week, it was a volcano in Chile. And hundreds of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean after an overcrowded boat capsized. All the while, tent cities burst their borders, wars incapacitate another generation and in our own cities, we clamor for explanations of injustice.

A scream broke in.

Voices scattered.

All we have are fragments.

The broken world bears witness to this story. But the Word that spoke creation speaks yet a better word:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:3-4

The voices will again come together; the fragments will be rejoined and all will be made new. But until then, we listen for your ancient name. We wait and we hope and we stammer:

Come, Lord Jesus.