Monday, October 11, 2004

Compline October 11

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit +: as it was in the beginning is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Psalm 91 & 134

He who dwells in the shelter of the most High abides under the shadow of the almighty....... He shall cover you with his pinions and you shall find refuge under his wings...

Mine eyes have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see...


These excerpts from the BCP service of Compline, reverberated with themes found in Derrida's essay "A Silkworm of One's Own: Points of View Stiched on the Other Veil" in Acts of Religion. The first verse of 91 recalls, perhaps the the veils of the temple, or better perhaps the tabernacle, temple as tent. The veil can also be a covering. Is the veil of the holy of holies a shelter a protective covering? What do we make of the tearing of the veil at the death of Jesus? Then we have the Song of Simeon, who saw Jesus as an infant and spoke the above words in the Temple in Jerusalem.
What is the relationship between the veil, the covering and sight? Is it significant that the veil before the Holy of Holies was embroidered with images of cherumbim?
Derrida in the essay points out the relationship between the prayer shawl and seeing and a seeing which recalls oneself to God (God's commands, God's word, Torah). The talith and phalactariesare so bodily, and God comes in the flesh. God revealed in the veil of a body, of our humanity.
And so we have seen God, or have we? I suppose it depends on what one is saying when saying "We have seen God." The veil has been torn in two, and God has become flesh.
Christian teaching asserts both that we have seen and that the veil remains, and yet the veil is in some sense our bodies. Or more to the point in Jesus fully human and fully divine, the uncircumscribable was circumscribed and the invisible became visible. The veil has been lifted so that we have seen the Father and yet God remains to us light which is darkness. This seeming paradox is what allows for Iconography, it is veiled unveiling the seeing that is beyond sight. We behold the face of Christ and see the invisible God, who remains beyond our sight.