Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The River Of Jordan

WE MIGHT REMEMBER THE LINE from Joan Baez' song: "All My Trials, Lord," ~ The River of Jordan is muddy and cold, it chills the body but not the soul.  Here's a picture of the River Jordan. The lush green bank and the river's turn makes the photo attractive, but the river itself  (more like a stream) is disappointing. 

The Jordan is a shallow river, 156 miles long. It only reaches any real height during the months of January to March. Climatologists and even the locals acknowledge that it shrinking due to climate change and that so much of the water is drawn off along its route for irrigation purposes. For a very long time, perhaps the better part of its history, sad to say, the river has been polluted by raw human sewage. Still wondrously, it remains home to over 500 species of birds. That last bit was God's wonderfully bright idea!

Today most of the river is off limits to the public, the rest is open only to the military in that bloodied part of the world torn up by terrible conflict, tension, violence and death. Not a good advertisement for religion, I'm afraid. 

The Jordan of Jesus' Baptism becomes an earth-symbol then. It's into such a world as this the Christmas carol says that God has entered in Christ. Even the muddy water becomes symbolic. Christ didn't step down into Vitamin Water, filtered water, softened, chlorinated, ionized, treated, infused, flavored, glacier-melt water - but the muddy water of the twisted Jordan.

Hearing the news coming out of the New Jersey Governor's office gives us a window into how muddy and twisted the world can be. Or the murky church-world of locked drawers and confidential files that allowed so much sex abuse to continue, or the dark underworld of selling girls for sex at the football games our country adores. Or the organized crime-world Pope Francis knows about and wants the Church to stay clear of. God has come into that world.

God comes into the created world to reclaim it for God and begins by stepping down into and reclaiming the water - and we're made of water! God is reclaiming us.

Ribboned in the waters of the twisted Jordan,
you left the imprint of your feet
along the mud-banks.

Take us by the hand now,
O Christ our God,
gently escort us out
of our polluted minds
our militarized hearts,
that we would join you in the freshness
of your renewing visitation.


  1. If you look carefully at the picture you can see Jesus blessing the fish and what appears to be a bear's face as He is being Baptized. And in the lower right hand corner is a human being, submerged in the muddy and twisted water. Maybe there is symbolism in that or maybe this is part of a larger mural. Your prayer perfectly captures the essence of the image. I pray that more people, especially those that we rely on, would allow themselves to be led by God and renewed.

    1. This Baptism scene is indeed part of a larger wall mosaic. The figures in the water with Jesus are fish OR sometimes they are little people riding on fish: personifications of the River Jordan - as if the River itself is alive. Often in images of Jesus his fingers are positioned this way, not in blessing, but forming the letters IC XC - Greek initials for Jesus Christ. Good observing!

    2. I would have thought that He was blessing the creatures, so thank you for this explanation. I never knew that the position of Jesus' fingers was a way of identifying Him in pictures. I love the idea of personifying the river. What a joy to look at these things with new meaning. A first step to my renewal. -Jon

  2. The world is undeniably twisted and murky. The outlook for human kind appears dismal at best if we concentrate on the atrocities that besiege us. As much as we need to address and confront these issues, we must also be mindful of the graces that surround us. The every day decency of people. If not, we would all be in a state of depression. I thank God for the blessing of my faith in Him and the beauty that I can find in people.

    1. One could say we ARE depressed - the world's largest consumer of anti-depressants and every other mood altering method: sex, food, "fun", drugs, booze, entertainment, shopping. Indeed - be happy for any and every decent person you/we encounter in the day - but the all the more, I am to look to my own transformation. Again, the prayer at the end of the post: "....gently escort us out of our polluted minds and militarized hearts..." "Us" - that's us individually and all of us collectively: family, local community, place of work, parish, larger Church, nation, world. Gratitude yes! Transformation even more! And all "one day at a time" as AA says. We can't do more than that.

  3. I love your insight! So interesting!! Question - what is in the top left corner? I can't enlarge the picture on my IPhone & can't make it out? Also, what are the white, silver objects at John's feet? You should have a class on icons!! You're a good teacher! Thank you!