I'm sitting listening to Karl Jenkins' Armed man: Mass for Peace, and right now the Gloria is loudly and splendidly defying the grey last day in January morning. I've also been working on the new tapestry which for the moment I'm calling the Christology tapestry. Don't laugh, at least not yet. I mentioned what this is all about in an earlier post over here.
The tapestry is slowly emerging from a daily living with the text of Colossians 1.15-20. The colours and emerging form are inevitably taking on some definition, and once ideas are worked into it they stay there. You can't paint over a tapestry, and you can't unstitch one worked on fine canvas with stranded cotton, so once the stitches are sewn, they stay. Of course there's risk and choice involved in a freehand work, though as it progresses the freedom and the choices are slowly constrained by previous work. So certain colours are beginning to give shape, texture, character, and fixity to ideas which themselves emerge from reflective thought, mood and feeling, unconscious memory, personal preferences from previous choices, and so it goes on.
This is a fascinating experiment in close reading. I've read the passage often now, slowly as in lectio divina. I've studied it and taken notes from a number of commentaries, and currently working with J D G Dunn's commentary on the Greek text. At times I find myself chasing reference to other biblical references, or working out my own views on the importance of the prepositions, or the parallels with OT wisdom, and so on.
Other times there is the sheer beauty of the imagery, and the theological refreshment of browsing in a text that is profoundly formative of Christian vision, giving urgency to spiritual imagination and lifting devotion into adoration. Then again I've consulted several scholarly articles delving into background, semantic puzzles, literary structure, Pauline theology, history of interpretation, and then gone back and read it again in the new light - - and all of this bringing the text to life, opening up a theological vista which opens up the mind, and then comes to the point of a needle with thread!
Anyway. Reading Dunn's comments about the Colossian hymn this morning Ifound this:
"...it is important to realisethat this is not the lanaguage of clinical analysis but of poetic imagination, precisely the medium where a quantum leap across disparate categories can be achieved by use of unexpected metaphor, where the juxtaposition of two categories from otherwise unrelated fields can bring an unlooked for flash of insight." The Epistles to Colossians and Philemon. NIGTC (Grand rapids: Eerdmans, 1996) 93.
That's as good a description of the proper use of metaphor as I know.