Saturday, March 10, 2007
The Meat Of The Night
The minister at my mother's memorial service was an older man, given to somber oratorical cadences. He was, he announced from the podium, going to read from the Book of Proverbs.
For years I'd dismissed Proverbs as a compendium of dorky old saws, until one Sunday a few years ago, trespassing at a Catholic Mass, I heard a reading from Proverbs 8, the beautiful passage about Sophia, Wisdom --
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
There was Merton's beloved Hagia Sophia, there was the feminine face of creation. I was moved and delighted by the poetry and the deep metaphor, and have returned to that passage time and time again ever since. So when the minister proposed to read from Proverbs, I settled back to listen.
He would read, he said, from Proverbs 31, the King James Version. He dug into his text. I listened carefully. It was a long passage. The room was silent, respectful. My eyes grew wide. I glanced at my husband, who looked appropriately somber. I looked back at the minister. The grave, mannered tones rose to a crescendo --
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
I hoped that, if anyone saw me, the bereaved daughter, with her hand over her sputtering face and her shoulders twitching, they imagined they were witnessing grief and not the barely stifled hysterical laughter of a vegan, feminist, not-yet-confirmed Episcopalian shipwrecked on a whacky, textual shoal.