Perichoresis 14.2

Perichoresis 14.2 (2016)


Transformative Poetry. A General Introduction and a Case Study of Psalm 2

Archibald L. H. M. van Wieringen


The structure of Psalm 2 is based on direct speeches in the text. These direct speeches characterise the communication that takes place in the text. The text-immanent author addresses the text-immanent reader with a question in the first line and with a makarismos in the last line. The direct speeches of the characters enable the text-immanent reader to undergo a development in his striving towards the beatitude. In this development, the ‘now’ of the birth of the Anointed One / Son is re-enacted in the reading moment of the text-immanent reader. The reception of Psalm 2 makes clear that Hebrews and the Christmas liturgy re-use the text, while retaining this re-enactment character. PDF

Space in Coercive Poetry. Augustine’s Psalm Against the Donatists and His Interpretation of the Fear of God In Enarrationes in Psalmos

Paul J. J. van Geest


This contribution consists of two parts. The first part identifies Augustine’s qualities as a mystagogue on the basis of the only poem he wrote that has been handed down: the Psalm against the Donatists. It shows that little is to be gained by studying Augustine as both poeta and mystagogue. Not his poetry itself, but his commentary on poetry as such reveals the transformative power that he ascribes to this genre. For this reason the second part examines Augustine’s Enarrationes in psalmos. In this work, he makes explicit the transformative power that is contained in the 150 Psalms, which are both poetry and prayer. This part asks the question how Augustine articulates or heightens fear when the Psalmist in his dialogue with God ‘compels’ him to do this, as it were, by expressing fear of enemies or of the Last Judgement. He shows that he acknowledges that fear alone can lead to an unbalanced, and even a bad relationship with God. Fear should result in introspection and should be a guarantee against pride. That Augustine furthermore is not content to heighten the fear of God alone, but wants it to coincide with desire, joy, and hope, shows that he wishes to prevent any imbalance in the human who seeks a relationship with God. For Augustine, fear is necessary, but it is ‘only’ an ancilla of hope, joy, love, and desire. But as such, timor is indispensible. Fear causes attentiveness and carefulness: virtues that love presuppose and that also correlate with it. Nevertheless, love does not stand at the service of fear; for Augustine, it is the reverse. PDF

‘Teach Us the Secret Runes’. The Lord’s Prayer in Heliand

Frank G. Bosman


The ninth century Heliand is a poetic retelling of the New Testament in Old Saxon, written by an anonymous monk for the purpose of confirming the conversion his fellow Saxons to the new faith. This conversion had been forced upon them by the Frankish invaders. The author adepts the story of Jesus Christ to fit within the feudal Saxon society and precursory Nordic mythology. This contribution focuses on the Saxon rendering of the Lord’s Prayer as it is situated in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Several key differences between the Saxon version and its biblical original are pointed out. These mirror and illustrate the attempt of the anonymous author to inculturate Jesus’ message. Finally, it is shown how, by some subtle phrases in the text of the Heliand, the poet of the Heliand is including his Saxon audience to fit themselves spiritually into the biblical story. Through the Heliand, Jesus seems to speak directly to its readers, thus stimulating a transformation of the reader-or hearer-himself. PDF

A Song in the Dark. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Brother Sun

Willem Marie Speelman


The Canticle of the Creatures or Canticle of Brother Sun is based on a particular way of perceiving reality. Francis, who had turned away from ‘the world’, discovered a different way of looking at it. This is a divine way of perceiving, in which the senses do not grasp reality, but accept it as it communicates itself. This way of perceiving is only possible if one does not attempt to master the environment, but allows one’s senses to be weak. It is significant, therefore, that this song of praise was born at a moment of the utmost despair and weakness. The song’s content is in line with this weak perception: it is not about Francis who praises God and (or for) His creatures, but rather it is a testimony that the creatures-the elements-are already praising God, and a prayer that He should let Himself be praised by the creatures. Also in line with this weak perception is the fact that the creatures are praised just as they communicate themselves to Francis: as bodies. The theology of this song is that the creatures through their bodies resonate (strengthen, and colour) the blessings that come from God, thereby making His blessing present here on earth. Francis’ role is to give a voice and a language to the heavenly praises as they resound in his environment. The transformative power of this song is that we, whether consciously or not, do the same thing when we participate in this song. PDF

Eucharistic Transformation. Thomas Aquinas’ Adoro Te Devote

Henk J. M. Schoot


Originally the Adoro te devote was not a liturgical hymn but a prayer, probably intended by Thomas Aquinas for personal use when attending mass. Quoting the at present most reliable version of the poem, the author studies Adoro te devote from the angle of transformation: poetic, Eucharistic and mystic or eschatological transformation. Structure and form are analysed, and a number of themes discussed: two alternative interpretations of adoration, several concepts of truth intended in the poem, the good thief and doubting Thomas as symbols of moral and spiritual imperfection, and (present and future) living in connection, in union with God. PDF

Transformative Poetry. A Case Study of W. H. Auden’s Musée Des Beaux Arts and General Conclusions

Marcel Sarot


This article situates Auden’s poem Musée des Beaux Arts in the process of his conversion to Christianity. The author argues for the layered intertextuality of the poem, in which allusions to Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, The Census at Jerusalem, and The Massacre of the Innocents can be recognised. Moreover, Philippe de Champaigne’s Presentation in the Temple and Peter Paul Rubens’s The Martyrdom of St Livinus (in the same museum in Brussels) seem also to have influenced the poem. Finally, there is reason to suppose that John Singer Sargent’s Crashed Aeroplane influenced Auden. In an analysis of the structure of the poem, the author argues that there is a clear structure hidden under the surface of day-to-day language. He connects this hidden structure with Auden’s poem The Hidden Law, and suggests that Auden wished to claim that even though we cannot understand suffering, it has a hidden meaning known only to God. This hidden meaning connects our suffering with the self-emptying of Christ, a connection which the author demonstrates is in fact also made in Musée des Beaux Arts. PDF