More Leonard Cohen musings

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I know, he's not even Christian. But if some of the OCP songwriters had one tenth of his talent and insight there would be a lot fewer complaints about 'modern liturgical music'.
This time, from Bird on a Wire.
Like a baby, stillborn,
like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.

I know that a few of my readers have experienced the effect of a stillborn baby. Far more have had miscarriages and a few have suffered the effects of abortion.
"I have torn everyone who reached out for me".
I've attended the births of a few stillborns as well as babies who we knew would not long survive after birth. In the bad old days, doctors would routinely knock out moms in these cases, and take the baby away in a misguided effort to protect them from anguish. What we have learned is that you can't protect them from anguish. The baby who cannot reach out for you, that is the one that will tear your heart.
We have an attitude in our times that it is somehow unnatural for a child to die while the parents live. How quickly we have forgotten that, historically, many children died at birth or in the first years of life. It used to be the midwife's job to bring the newborn to the church for baptism as soon as possible after the birth (while the mother was still 'lying-in', in many cases) to preserve that child's soul. In my career, I have baptised two babies in extremis, and one that we were also trying (unsuccessfully) to resuscitate. When I think about how a stillborn tears out the heart of his mother, I also reflect back on the prophecy given to Mary the Theotokos - how a sword would pierce her heart.
I've recently read a few reviews of the Passion that talked about the courage Mary showed to be able to watch her Son being tortured to death, helpless to do anything about it. And I think that any mother can relate to the emotional suffering that a mother would experience seeing her child suffer and die. I also know that as a mother one has no real choice but to walk along the Via Dolorosa with one's child.


I have the "Tower of Song" tribute cd, covers of Leonard Cohen songs done byy various stars. I must say, I adore the cover of "Bird on a Wire" that Willie Nelson did. Willie is incomparable, of course, but when he sings it, you get the feeling that he's singing it with experience.

And, yes, that's a terrible pain. Soul-rending, indeed. I don't WANT to think about Mary's pain, because I fear it. I know I'm not good enough to endure such agony without cursing God and falling into despair. She was and is truly incomparable . . . and truly good. I would have sworn at the soldiers, cursed, raved, and probably gotten myself spitted on a sword for good measure.

Motherhood is such a primal thing, though. Like a beast with her horns, protecting her young . . . that's how I feel sometimes. It's hard to step back, to think, to act instead of react. It's easy to be mindless. So much harder to be compassionate and wise.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by alicia published on March 28, 2004 5:25 PM.

a reflection on marriage was the previous entry in this blog.

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