Monday, September 16, 2019

Anaphora

Sometimes we give our 2-year-old granddaughter a treat, like a cookie, and then we tease her by saying, “Can I have your cookie?” She is such a sweetie she always says, “Yes. Here,” and holds the cookie out to us. She is giving back to us what we already own and gave to her.


Anaphora. Ever heard of it? I had not. I heard a poet, Scott Cairns, on a podcast explaining what it means, “Anaphora is a formal (rhetorical device) representation having to do with repetition - lines that begin in the same way and build out.” Once I heard of it, I thought of many instances of anaphora: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, a benediction (blessing at the end of a service) I often hear, “May the Lord bless you and keep you | May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you,..” for example. Scott Cairns read his poem. repeating and building on “To behold the sublime.”

Anaphora

by Scott Cairns

To behold the sublime, one must first
accede that one is also held, beheld,
beholden to. One must first agree.


To behold the sublime, one must first
forgo all hope of standing clear,
of standing far apart. One must see.


To behold the sublime, one must first
suspend long habits of self-
sufficiency, accept the pulse. The sky
held close to all that lay in view,
with mist and wood smoke mingling
low amid the deep expanse of green,
availed a glimpse, if momentary,
of what one's hunger must occasion
shy of satisfaction, even so.


Cairns also talked about a prayer used in Catholic worship services during the Eucharist (Communion / Lord’s Supper) called the Anaphora of St. Basil. He said in the sacrament of communion, we celebrate the gift of Jesus’ presence as we eat the bread and wine and we offer that gift of his presence back to God. We are giving to God what is already his. 


Because we love God and are grateful to him, we give things to him. It might be money that we give to our church or to charities that help others. It might be work we do for others as a way of honoring God. It might be songs or prayers. When we offer to God what he, in the first place, gave to us, it is a kind of anaphora. God says, “Here you go,” as he gives us everything and we say, “Here you go,” as we give it back to him. Like my granddaughter with her cookie.


Do you think that means our giving is meaningless, or may less meaningful? I don’t. We can take the story of my granddaughter further. Yes, she’s giving me back what I gave her in the first place, but her act of giving fills me with joy. 


Praise God that he gives us everything -- every square inch. And praise God he fills our hearts with love and gratitude enabling us to give back.


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