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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Reflections on Rilke Part iii


If you spend any time in nature, especially in or on the water, you will quickly make the connection the poets of Scripture make with living water. Again David in Psalm 104…

You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst. By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. (my emphasis)

Though there are many kinds of water, most basically there are two kinds: living water and stagnant water. Being a trout fisherman, I thrive on living water. Trout only live in cold, fast, clean, clear water or high cold mountain lakes. They cannot survive in stagnant water that never moves, covered with slime and sludge. This stagnant water reminds me of the complacency that Rilke alludes to in Du siechst, ich will viel . It is covered with decades of film, the ground beneath the water is mucky, silty, and has no solid foundation. The oxygen content is low. It smells.

…So many are alive who don’t seem to care. casual, easy, they move in the world as though untouched.

But this is not God’s intention for our lives. We were not created for stagnancy, for complacency, to be dead in the water. Rather, listen again to David, this time in Psalm 46…

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.

This is the re-creative river of the grace of God infused into the world. Read about it in Isaiah, in Revelation, in the person of Jesus Christ. It is the trout stream – cold, fast, clean, clear – invigorating and renewing. God help us when the morning dawns!

Rilke is on to something. “You take pleasure in the faces/ of the those who know they thirst.” We all thirst. We are people who need the living water, people who are all thirsty. Our thirst is greater than we had imagined and we must grip grace for survival like a rock climber on the edge of El Capitan. This is Rilke’s beatitude: blessed are those who know they thirst! Acknowledging thirst is the first step in attaining the living water, finding the glad river, washing our lives of the soot that threatens to stagnate. It is the first step on the road to refreshment, vigor, passion, vision, hope, fervor, fanaticism, and zeal for the holy. Hear David’s tune and listen to Rilke’s wisdom, for they are on to something as ancient as it continues to be new. For God is

“…not dead yet, it’s not too late to open your depths by plunging into them and drink the life that reveals itself quietly there.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who renews the face of the ground.

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