Vol 5, No 1, 2005

Poetry, Theology and Emptiness: “The Angel Did Not Draw Attention to Himself”

Noel Rowe


"The Glory of God: Humanity Fully Alive" (courtesy of St Irenaeus) provokes thought of another popular motif of the 1970s: "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing" (courtesy of Helen Keller). These two motifs, once used to inspire yesteryear's seminarians, are used by the author as a catalyst for reflecting on the interplay between fullness and emptiness in theology, poetry and life. Themes of poverty, vulnerability, nothingness, suffering, kenosis (self-emptying) are traced with reference to political theologian Johan Baptist Metz, Australian "Catholic" poets James McAuley and Francis Webb, and Mary of Nazareth who inspires a series of "Magnificat" poems. At the level of theology and spirituality, there is complementarity between Christian “poverty of spirit” and Buddhist "emptiness" which the paper goes some way in exploring. It is also an exploration of one poet's understanding of the spiritual discipline required for writing "religious" poetry.