Art, Poetry, Music, and Nature for the New Year
Thursday, January 27 2021

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster


If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1


When Leonard Cohen was nine, his father died. A few days after the funeral, not knowing how to grieve, and wanting some way to move toward his father, Cohen snuck into his father’s bedroom, grabbed one of his bow ties, cut it open, and tucked inside the pleated folds a note, and then went out to the garden and after digging in winter-frosted dirt, buried the bow tie and note together underground. Five decades later, he summoned that experience and said, “It was the first thing I wrote… I’ve been digging in the garden for years, looking for it. Maybe that’s all I’m doing, looking for the note.”

In his biography, A Broken Hallelujah: Rock and Roll, Redemption and the Life of Leonard Cohen, Liel Leibovitz shares the story all the more elegantly, and then suggests, “that night in the garden Cohen became not just a writer, but a particular kind of writer—the kind who wrote and then destroyed his work. At nine he understood instinctively what Kafka, who ordered his manuscripts burned, or the great Jewish mystic and storyteller, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who did the same, had labored a lifetime to learn: that sometimes, if you’re sincere about what you have to say, if you want to communicate the full force of human emotions like grief and longing and gratitude, you try to write and then realize that your words are just as transient as you are, that they always fail you when you need them most, and that if they can’t serve their purpose and convey meaning perfectly—if they can’t reach the unborn and the dead—then they’re better off buried or burned.”

No wonder once his words do finally live on the page, and then decades later find their way to us through to the voice of Julia Dale, something stirring—equal parts heartrending and warm—is revealed. Thank you Julia, for this rendition of Hallelujah.

God above, of grace and love, we say thank you for this brand new day. Amen.