Tuesday, July 04, 2006

In His hands are the Caverns...

In the Daily Office, one frequenty recites a Venite which proclaims, "In His hand are the caverns of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also." This is probably based upon Ps 95:4.

We are accustomed to looking up to the heights in our contemplation of God, and many feel somehow closer to God when on a mountaintop. But I am also moved by contemplation of the truth that not only the obvious mountains but the inapparent caverns are in His hand, are his workmanship.

As a child I visited various caverns with my parents, the largest being Luray Caverns in Virginia. The stories of the discovery of these caverns have a certain similarity. For millenia, their existence is hidden beneath the earth, and one day someone finds a sinkhole, or cool air emanating from under a rock, and digs a little to discover breathtaking beauty that has lain unknown and unappreciated beneath our feet for hundreds of years, thousands of years. All that time, slow millimeter by millimeter and unappreciated by mortal eyes, God has carved chambers filled with beauty and mirror pools and deep quiet. A work of removal and accretion, the work of Water moving through and out of Rock.

We are an impatient race. What work is God doing beneath our feet, unknown to us, over the decades of our own lives and over the centuries of the life of the City of Zion? What caverns of beauty will be revealed to us in that Day when we shall see clearly and know as we are known? What shapes are being carved out of our stony hearts by the slow but relentless movement through them of the water of life?


  1. Anonymous6:54 AM

    huh, good thoughts Joe. i never thought about it like that before. though, i have always associated monastaries with caves --they just have a cool, dank, and solitary quality. There is also a strange allusion with caverns to introspection and contemplation. Augustine would dig it.


  2. Robert Penn Warren, on caves:

    In the days before the white man came, the Indians called the land of Kentucky the Dark and Bloody Ground.

    But they also called it the Breathing Land and the Hollow Land, for beneath the land there are great caves. The Indians came here to fight and to hunt, but they did not come here to live.

    It was a holy land, it was a land of mystery, and they trod the soil lightly when they came. They could not live here, for the gods lived here. But when the white men came, the gods fled, either into the upper air or deeper into the dark earth.

    So there was no voice here to speak and tell the white men what justice is.

  3. I often use the daily office and these two lines are usually the two that catch me on a daily basis. I love the imagery here of God holding something that is actually negative space-- how do you hold a cavern or height (the space above the hill) in your hand? And yet, this is a daily reminder that the greatness of God surpasses our understanding of physical reality.