Part One of Two
The Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” has really captured me for some reason in this Christmas season 2019. I’ve read about it and listened to several versions, my current favorite by Pentatonix, but including the Christmas version by Cloverton. I’ve printed the lyrics, meditated on them, and journaled about what I’ve seen for several days.
It seems it may be related to the verse we used on our Christmas cards this year, Isaiah 9:2. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”
Seems like I’ve been led to focus more on the broken hallelujah, and a house swept clean? How did we get where we are? Do we stay here? Or journey on in His love, power, presence, and grace? Celebrating Christ and Christmas? Immanuel? God with us?
On the same day I journaled those thoughts, December 10, I also journaled this quote from Bob Goff from his devotional calendar.
“Following Jesus is about having your paradigms shift as you navigate a wide range of emotions while living the big life Jesus invites us into.”
These thoughts seem like a fitting prelude or introduction to:
(Song & Lyrics by Leonard Cohen 1934-2016)
I really see this song as a modern day parable or poem set to hauntingly-beautiful music that affects the human spirit immediately and demands attention — then politely gives the hearer the opportunity to hear no more if they wish. “But you don’t really care for music do you?”
Still it invites and draws the hearer immediately onward into a room of questions about life’s meaning with its successes and failures. Also the activity of the Holy with the continuing questions that arise from all of this.
Then follows the beautiful, one-word course so prevalent in King David’s collections of songs, “Hallelujah.”
The story gets stronger in the second verse as Cohen struggles with faith and reason— the supernatural meets the natural — the material meets the Eternal.
Immediately follows sexual temptation and seduction; the giving away of one ’s strength, destiny, and calling for one of this worlds’s greatest natural pleasures — but not according to God’s plan or ways. And the admission of this failure.
Here, one surely sees this is personal. This is autobiographical. This is too close, too intimate, too heartfelt not to be. We all feel it. We all know it. We all have experienced it in some shape form or fashion, with the sense of failure it brings. The sense of loss. The sense of shame.
What else touches us so deeply and personally in our earth journey as our sexuality? Common and mysterious as it is.
Then comes and follows immediately the hauntingly beautiful refrain; the one word course in Hebrew…”Hallelujah… Hallelujah”… Soft… Sweet… Soothing… Truthful… Honest… Real.
A word lifted unchanged from the ancient Hebrew language and placed into almost every language of the world; unaltered. A word not threatening, not objectionable, but soothing, peaceful, true. It seems easy on the lips, the ears, the heart — something our spirits find whole, good, true — even transcendent, and readily acceptable.
The third verse takes us back to life on earth. There comes more accusations from the enemy of our souls and those he influences and controls. And the human need we feel to defend ourselves, if we’re living in our own strength and not trusting God for our defense, our deliverance, our salvation.
But didn’t Cohen capture how we feel? And in so few words? If we’re honest and vulnerable about it. Like he is.
“You say I took the name in vain, I don’t even know the name, but if I did, well, really—what’s it to you?”
In this humble, honest confession we can all empathize. We don’t really know Him like we’d like to. And can He be known really? It’s personal—very personal. So “what’s it to you?”
Yet one senses Cohen has known the Name in some measure, and that has affected him deeply. His brilliant, deep-cutting insights into David and Sampson betray that fact, as does his next words in verse three.
“There is a blaze of light in and every word, it doesn’t matter what you’ve heard, the holy or the broken hallelujah.”
Ah ha! There it is. Did you catch it? “The holy or the broken hallelujah.”
There may be two kinds of hallelujah? But I think really only one, as far as humans are concerned. The broken variety. Or, if you can see it, by his power and demonstrated goodwill in sending Jesus and the Holy Spirit, a broken hallelujah restored, and set apart, which is the meaning of “holy.”.
But, “it doesn’t matter which you’ve heard” “the holy or the broken hallelujah,” “there’s a blaze of light in every word.” (John 1)
I want to pause here a moment to consider the broken. Because CR (Celebrate Recovery) comes to mind as the clearest picture of this “broken hallelujah” in my realm today, and thus far in my human journey, and I believe in the community of faith called the church.
A broken vessel is required really to let the light in; and then once it’s held within to let the blaze of light out. To be seen by others, beckoning them to come to the Light and experience the Light for themselves.
So we’re challenged to recall our knowledge of the Holy or our ignorance of the Same, and give credence to the Light we’ve seen in creation, the Word, or others around us. However it has been observed, “it doesn’t matter which you heard. The holy or the broken hallelujah.”
That soothing, that real, that transcendent hallelujah comes softly in the refrain. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”
… To Be Continued…