I’ve long been a fan of Van Morrison’s music for several reasons:
1. He is Irish. Born in Belfast.
2. He is deeply mystical. Just listen to his “Poetic Champions Compose” album … brilliant!
3. He is not a fan of the music industry’s obsession with merely selling music. He wants to make music, the way spouses long to make love.
Van reveals in his very body language that the music is bigger than he is. If you don’t know this, then seeing him in concert for the first time can be a little befuddling. Like a priest before Vatican II, he often turns his back to the crowds. This is not to give them the cold shoulder in a sort of musical snobbery. He is leading us into the Fire. Like the priest turning to the East from whence the Son rises, he says “Look, He must increase, we must decrease. Come, let us worship!”
Now let’s recall as we proceed, I’m sprinkling holy water on this one, as I do with all of my film and music references. Blessed John Henry Newman said, “With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every event.” St. Paul says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely … think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Enter Van’s “hymn” to the interior life, as I see it, from the album “St. Dominic’s Preview,” 1972. After an opening line, “All my love come tumblin’ down,” he sings simple lines over and over, delving deep within himself in a sort of contemplative prayer, urging himself and listeners to “listen to the lion, inside.”
I see the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, unleashed to ravage my heart in the words of another metaphysical poet from across the sea, John Donne. I see flashes of Aslan’s mane from C.S. Lewis’ immortal “Chronicles of Narnia.” I see the Lion lying down with the Lamb in Isaiah’s ancient vision; Christ the King coming to rest in my weak and vulnerable heart. And what does He unleash in me? Van chants on:
“All my tears have flown, all my tears like water flown, for the lion… inside me.”
When mercy hits the sinful human heart, in the place of vulnerability, the chink in the armor we wear daily to protect ourselves, the tears will flow. The question is, will we allow Him access? Can we look up from our own busyness, our constant chatter, and let His arrow pierce us through? Let Love come tumblin’ down?
In these days of endless distraction, we must attend to this Lion inside. If we want to sing the songs of Zion once again, from our Babylonian captivity, we must let Him have His way with us. Let the journey within begin, let Him lead us home again. Let the way be that sea of tears, on which we journey.
“And we sailed, and we sailed, and we sailed … All around the world. And we sailed … and we sailed … and we sailed … Looking for a brand new start.”
When, oh Lord, will this happen? Where will we hear your voice calling to us from the deep? When the muse speaks through the radio. When the poets and the minstrels of our day sing out, even unknowingly, those ancient longings, we can baptize the notes, wash the music in the water of grace.
The music is never-ending and always beginning.
Listen. Listen to the Lion, inside.