I knew one who made his pilgrimage to springs

The Springs
by Wendell Berry
In a country without saints or shrines
I knew one who made his pilgrimage
to springs, where in his life’s dry years
his mind held on. Everlasting,
people called them, and gave them names.
The water broke into sounds and shinings
at the vein mouth, bearing the taste
of the place, the deep rock, sweetness
out of the dark. He bent and drank
in bondage to the ground.
Water
by Wendell Berry
I was born in a drouth year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemy’s soul.
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.
Also, this whole essay by Wendell Berry is related. Here are two excerpts:
If you are worried about the damming of wilderness rivers, join the Sierra Club, write to the government, but turn off the lights you’re not using, don’t install an air conditioner, don’t be a sucker for electrical gadgets, don’t waste water. In other words, if you are fearful of the destruction of the environment, then learn to quit being an environmental parasite. We all are, in one way or another, and the remedies are not always obvious, though they certainly will always be difficult. They require a new kind of life-harder, more laborious, poorer in luxuries and gadgets, but also, I am certain, richer in meaning and more abundant in real pleasure. To have a healthy environment we will all have to give up things we like; we may even have to give up things we have come to think of as necessities. But to be fearful of the disease and yet unwilling to pay for the cure is not just to be hypocritical; it is to be doomed.
…What I am saying is that if we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of the earth, but also the earth’s ability to produce. We will see that beauty and utility are alike dependent upon the health of the world. But we will also see through the fads and the fashions of protest. We will see that war and oppression and pollution are not separate issues, but are aspects of the same issue. Amid the outcries for the liberation of this group or that, we will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man’s only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place.
(If time allowed, I would copy a few short pages from Berry’s essay “The Presence of Nature in the Natural World: A Long Conversation” which clearly get at his frustrations with the way that we conceive of “nature” today and how this impoverishes our ideas about “environmentalism.”)
From The Silmarillion (a collection of J. R. R. Tolkien’s works, edited and published posthumously in 1977 by his son Christopher Tolkien):
It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.
Tolkien is doing his own version of something akin to the points made in this passage from Tertullian (AD c. 155 – c. 240) in his work On Baptism, Chapter IV (which is echoed and developed metaphysically by many later Christian theologians):
The Spirit of God, who hovered over (the waters) from the beginning, would continue to linger over the waters of the baptized. But a holy thing, of course, hovered over a holy; or else, from that which hovered over that which was hovered over borrowed a holiness, since it is necessary that in every case an underlying material substance should catch the quality of that which overhangs it, most of all a corporeal of a spiritual, adapted (as the spiritual is) through the subtleness of its substance, both for penetrating and insinuating. Thus the nature of the waters, sanctified by the Holy One, itself conceived withal the power of sanctifying. …All waters, therefore, in virtue of the pristine privilege of their origin, do, after invocation of God, attain the sacramental power of sanctification; for the Spirit immediately supervenes from the heavens, and rests over the waters, sanctifying them from Himself.

And this all connects back, in various ways, to the Feast of Theophany.

Willis Run Soliloquy

I caress each stone, brick, root, turtle, and grocery bag that rests in my slow, shaded pools, and I taste each rock quarry dredging that muddies my current. I hold everything—from every side—within my moving waters, and I search out the interior scents and textures of all that touches me. Each moment, all my waters shimmer in a vivid curtain of eddies—from my source-springs to my mouth.

Every Spring, Great White Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons nest beside me, bringing far-off photographers. Just upstream, my bedrock is dynamited weekly for limestone, carving a crater hundreds of feet below my water table. But all the tomorrows carry their worries without me, just like the dead who cover Prospect Hill. Only my angel remembers the millennia of life and landscapes that have shared in my song as it has played over my bedrock since it was first given a shape to hold me.

[Note: this is my try at something that I’ve assigned to some eighth grade students: “Students must write, memorize, and deliver a one minute soliloquy as Willis Run (a local stream that they will learn about and visit in person). Students will be given time and support to create a compelling and believable personality for Willis Run as they personify this stream and speak in its voice.”]

confirm our song and lead our feast

Excerpts from Royal Hours on the Eve of the Theophany (Epiphany).

[Served on Friday, January 5, 2018. © 2006 The Orthodox Church in America.]

The river Jordan was turned back by the mantle of Elisha,
after Elijah had been taken up to heaven.
The waters were parted in two,
and the stream became a dry path.
This was truly a type of baptism,
by which we pass over the stream of life.
Christ has shone forth in the Jordan to sanctify the waters.

To the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way of the Lord,”
You came, O Lord, taking the form of a servant.
You asked to be baptized though You have no knowledge of sin.
The waters saw You and were afraid.
The Forerunner trembled and cried aloud:
“How will the Lamp illumine the Light?
How will a servant lay his hand on the Master?
You take away the sin of the world, O Savior.
Sanctify both me and the waters!”

Today our God, the Trinity,
revealed Himself to us as one and undivided:
for the Father with a loud voice bore witness to His Son;
the Spirit came down from heaven in the form of a dove;
the Son bowed his spotless head before the Forerunner John
and was baptized in his love for us,
delivering us from bondage.

The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You and were afraid. (Ps. 76:17/77:16)

The Father bore witness to You,
and the Divine Spirit in the form of a dove descended on You,
as You came in flesh to the Jordan, O Lord.
You desired to be baptized in human form,
that in Your compassion You might enlighten us who have gone astray, and deliver us from all the snares and wiles of the Dragon.
Make your home in our souls, O loving God.

What wonder, to look down in the river
and see the Maker of heaven and earth standing naked.
Like a servant at the hands of a servant
he accepts to be baptized for our salvation.
The choirs of angels are astounded,
overwhelmed with fear and joy.
With them we worship You; save us, O Lord!

Therefore I remember You, from the land of Jordan and of Hermon.

When he saw the Lord of glory draw near,
the Forerunner cried aloud:
“Behold, the One who redeems the world from corruption!
Behold, the One who delivers us from affliction!
Behold, the One who grants us remission of sins!
In his mercy He has come forth on the earth from a pure virgin.
He makes us children of God instead of servants;
through the waters of His baptism divine,
He gives light to us in place of darkness.
Let us all glorify Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit!

The waters saw you, O God; the waters saw You and were afraid. (Ps. 76:17/77:16)

[Then the canonarch, standing in the center of the church, chants this verse:]

With your hand, O Baptist,
you touched the pure head of the Master.
With your hand and your finger you showed Him to us.
Stretch out this hand toward Him on our behalf,
since you have great boldness;
for He witnessed to you as greater than all the prophets!
And again, with your eyes, O Baptist,
you saw the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove.
Lift your eyes to Him and make Him gracious toward us!
And come and stand with us!
Come and stand with us!
Come and stand with us!
Confirm our song and lead our feast!

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
(Ps. 26/27:1)

Today the Lord enters the Jordan and cries out to John:
“Do not be afraid to baptize me, for I come to save Adam, the first-formed man!”

Some language from the same service in the Antiochian tradition:

O Life-giving Lord, when Thou didst come to the Jordan in the flesh, in the likeness of man, willing to be baptized to lighten us who have erred, delivering us from all the wiles of the dragon and his gins, since Thou art compassionate, the Father testified of Thee, and the divine Spirit did come to Thee in the likeness of a dove. Dwell Thou, therefore, in our souls, O Lover of mankind.

Psalm 73
But God is our king before the ages; He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth. Thou didst establish the sea by Thy might; Thou didst break the heads of the dragons in the water. Thou didst crush the head of the dragon; Thou gavest him as food to the Ethiopian peoples. Thou hast cloven fountains and torrents; Thou hast dried up the rivers of Etham. Thine is the day and Thine is the night; Thou hast perfected the light and the sun. Thou hast made all the borders of the earth; summer and spring hast Thou fashioned. Be mindful of this Thy creation.

Psalm 90
For Thou, O Lord, art my hope. Thou madest the Most High thy refuge; no evils shall come nigh thee, and no scourge shall draw nigh unto thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. On their hands shall they bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Upon the asp and basilisk shalt thou tread, and thou shalt trample upon the lion and dragon. For he hath set his hope on Me, and I will deliver him; I will shelter him because he hath known My Name.

Psalm 28
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory hath thundered, the Lord is upon the many waters. The voice of the Lord in might, the voice of the Lord in majesty. The voice of the Lord Who breaketh the cedars; yea, the Lord will break the cedars of Lebanon. And He will break them small like the calf of Lebanon, and His beloved is like a son of the unicorns. The voice of the Lord Who divideth the flame of fire, the voice of the Lord Who shaketh the wilderness; yea, the Lord will shake the wilderness of Kaddis. The voice of the Lord gathereth the harts, and shall reveal the thickets of oak, and in His temple every man uttereth glory. The Lord dwelleth in the flood; yea, the Lord shall sit as king forever.

[NOTE: The following is done slowly from the center of the church.]

Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…
Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…
Thy hand which touched the head of the Master, free of corruption…

… the same with which thou didst point Him to us by the pointing of the finger, raise thou it to Him for our sakes, O Forerunner. Thou hast attained great favor, since it was testified of thee by Him that thou art the greatest of all the Prophets. And thine eyes also, which did behold the All-Holy Spirit descending in the likeness of a dove, raise to Him, O Baptizer, granting mercy for us.

Come, thou, and stand with us…
Come, thou, and stand with us…
Come, thou, and stand with us…
… concluding our praise and beginning the celebration of the Feast.

[Portions of the Archdiocesan Service Texts include texts from The Menaion, The Great Horologion, The Pentecostarion, and The Psalter of the Seventy, which are Copyright © Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, Massachusetts. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, beyond printing out a single copy for personal non-commercial use, without the prior written authorization of Holy Transfiguration Monastery.]

all the attention you can give it

That mention of Feuerbach and joy reminded me of something I saw early one morning a few years ago, as I was walking up to the church. There was a young couple strolling along half a block ahead of me. The sun had come up brilliantly after a heavy rain, and the trees were glistening and very wet. On some impulse, plain exuberance, I suppose, the fellow jumped up and caught hold of a branch, and a storm of luminous water came pouring down on the two of them, and they laughed and took off running…. It is easy to believe in such moments that water was made primarily for blessing, and only secondarily for growing vegetables or doing the wash. …This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.

From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

he had done all that he could do to save himself

“Piglet is Entirely Surrounded by Water” by A.A. Milne:

Really, it wasn’t much good having anything exciting like floods, if you couldn’t share them with somebody.

“…There’s Pooh,” he thought to himself. “Pooh hasn’t much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right.”

Then suddenly he knew he would never see it again and that he had done all that he could do to save himself.
“So now,” he thought, “somebody else will have to do something….”

this question is answered at the waterside

If the gospel stories were preserved in patterns determined by preaching and reinforced by decades of the same, we should expect the gospel sequences to be thematic, not chronological. And this is, in fact, what we find.

…Recalling the ancient tradition that Mark’s material came from Peter, we observe the graphic details indicating that this story represents firsthand testimony: the churning water, the dangerous wind, the peril of the little boat, and the growing anxiety of the crew.

…The question asked in the storm scene, therefore, represents the fundamental inquiry that brings individuals to faith in Jesus: “Who do you say that I am?” Here in the two sequential gospel scenes—the storm and the demoniac—we find that fundamental question stated and answered. It was a baptismal question. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that this question is answered at the waterside, the place immediately beside the baptismal waters. In Mark (especially), the waterside is a common site where potential believers encounter Jesus: the first disciples (Mark 1:16–19), Levi (2:13–14), the great crowds (3:7–9), the sick (6:53–55), the deaf mute (7:31–32), and the blind man (8:22). This suggestion of conversion and repentance at the waterside evokes the imagery of baptism.

…Does the juxtaposition of these two scenes—the storm and the demoniac—represent a preaching motif of early Christian preaching, a remnant of pre-baptismal catechesis, or does it simply mean the two events actually followed each other in sequence? It is difficult to say, but it is also unnecessary to decide.

From The Jesus We Missed: The Surprising Truth About the Humanity of Christ by Patrick Henry Reardon.