Poetry: A little incarnation

July 11, 2012 | 13 comments

Just a quick post to say thank you to those of you who recommended C.S. Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms back when we discussed the subject a few weeks ago. I just got my copy in the mail, and, as with so many things that Lewis writes, I’m already blown away.

For those of you who haven’t read it, I wanted to share an excerpt that I found particularly stirring. Lewis has been discussing why the Lord would include poetry in sacred scripture, and suggests that one of the reasons may be that the “rhythmic and incantatory expression” of the psalms makes the truths they contain easier to remember. Then he says he thinks there may be something more. He writes:

It seems to me appropriate, almost inevitable, that when that great Imagination which in the beginning, for Its own delight and for the delight of men and angels and (in their proper mode) of beasts, had invented and formed the whole world of Nature, submitted to express Itself in human speech, that speech should sometimes be poetry. For poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible.

“A little incarnation.” What a perfect expression of what happens when you read a profound poem or hear a beautiful piece of music. You find that it’s more than the sum of its sounds, that something else has become present through the power of words delivered this way. This is what I was fumbling around to articulate when I was talking about how music helped lead me to God: When I would hear certain songs I had a brush with something real, something tangible, something with roots outside of our fallen material world. That is to say, I experienced a little incarnation.

I can’t wait to read more of this book. Thanks again to those who suggested it!

P.S. Still swamped catching up on all the comments to my last post. Thanks for all your thoughts, both those that agreed and those that disagreed. All perspectives are welcome!


  1. LuAnne

    I’ll have to pick this up too, it sounds interesting!

  2. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I also bought the book on the recommendation of your commenters and I’ll confirm, it is magnificent. I love reading Lewis, because he gives me great data and his apologetics are palpably running over with joy. I was in a sustained good mood for at least a day after I finished.

  3. Susan

    Yes, I read that book too when your commenter suggested it – it was excellent!

  4. Andrea

    I definitely have a sense of God speaking to me through beauty, whether the morning light or the red of a tomato or the harmony of music.

  5. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    I’m glad you found a good resource 🙂 I am looking for some insight into the book of Leviticus. I emailed a few priests my question, but none of them felt they had enough knowledge to help me out. So, I am still looking. Here was what I asked:

    I am in the process of reading the book of Leviticus. It is a tough book for me to get through. It seems like the books rules are outdated for our faith now, and oftentimes I find that enemies of the Church cite examples from that book to use against us. While reading, I keep coming back to one main question: Why is it important for today’s Catholics to study Leviticus? What can we take from it to use in our lives today?

    If anyone has any info on that, I would forever be in your Biblical debt.


  6. Suzanne

    Jenna….Leviticus is actually written for PRIESTS, so don’t worry that some of it you might not get! It’s basically the priestly instructions for the nation of Israel. In light of Israel’s sin, they needed to be disciplined and guided and the Mosaic law in the book of Leviticus is just that. All those laws have been ‘fulfilled’ (doesn’t mean that many don’t still hold true, just not all) by Christ. So while it might be an interesting read, try seeing it in the ‘big picture’ of salvation history not necessarily applicable to your life in July 2012? Have you done any of Jeff Cavins’ Great Adventure Journey thru the Bible Series? That might help! Just a thought!


  7. Cool Cats

    Yeah, most of the verses that I remember also happen to have hymnal music ^.^

  8. Steph

    I had seen it suggested in your post about Psalms as well, and although I had read the book several years ago, I made a point to find on my shelf and open it up again. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  9. Christine Falk Dalessio

    I think this is exactly why Bl. JP II insisted that we receive the Holy spirit, that we are evangelized, through ART. It is art that does precisely this – makes the invisible visible, embodying a truth beyond the substance. And in this way, we better understand the human person, revealed by the body, because the creation of the body is art in its own way – ever revealing truth, goodness and beauty, thus bringing us always closer to God as we discover and understand it better.

  10. Jean

    Love C.S.lewis. He was my spiritual guide for many years after I became a Christian and then a Catholic. My friends call him “St C.S.”because I quote him so often I think I have read everyone of his religious books and love them all.

  11. Misha

    I am going to definitely look into this. Thanks for writing this post. Beautiful words indeed.

  12. John

    Hello Jennifer,

    Nice excerpt from the book of CS Lewis. I’ve heard so much about
    this author because my friends just love the books. I haven’t read any yet. Which CS Lewis book do you highly recommend? Would it be this book? Thanks for doing a short review here.

    – John

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