Reflections by Jerry Webber

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Rilke: Flare up like flame

God speaks to each of us
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I, 59

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you:
beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

[Rainer Maria Rilke, “Gott spricht zu jedem nur, eh er ihn macht,” I, 59, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, 88.]

Rilke imagined our creative beginnings as God's walk with us out of the darkness, speaking into us the words we will take a lifetime to recover, to hear fully, and to live into. We hear them dimly. Any journey of enlightenment or illumination is partially the journey of recalling our original purpose, our original identity.

Part of what we slowly hear again is the invitation to "flare up like flame." Perhaps this became Rilke's way of saying, "You are the light of the world." Let the inner fire of your origins, your purpose, your identity become flame. Live from the center of that fire, so that which enflames your life will enlighten others also.

Rilke was a complex man -- aren't we all, after all, complex? -- who heard faint voices most all of his life. I imagine he, like me and you, "dimly heard" these words. Did he live them well? Or not so well? Did he, in his life, "flare up like flame"? I do not know.

But I do know he heard the voice, if only dimly.

And I know we are here, a century later, reading his poem and talking about his vision of our genesis.

YOU are the light of the world. Flare up like flame.

No comments: