Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Straw Dogs

From today's daily Mass reading:

“All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever.”
--Isaiah 40:6-8


"Heaven and Earth are ruthless;
To them the Ten Thousand things are but as straw dogs.
The Sage too is ruthless;
To him the people are but as straw dogs."
--Dao De Jing (chap. 5, tr. Waley)

So far, so heartless. But look how these readings end:

"Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care."
--Isaiah 40:6-8

And this:

"Yet Heaven and Earth and all that lies between
Is like a bellows
In that it is empty, but gives a supply that never fails.
Work it, and more comes out.
Whereas the force of words is soon spent.
Far better is it to keep what is in the heart."
--Dao De Jing (chap. 5, tr. Waley)

In the cosmic view, we're mayflies living on a dustball. That's true; it importantly reminds us that the grand events of the age are but vanity. But there's an even bigger view than the cosmic view: Nature is ruthless, but Nature's God was born for us in a manger. Happy Advent!

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