In 1916, a young pianist took his jeep and drove across the Arizona desert to watch and experience the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. What Ferde Grofe witnessed that early morning far surpassed all his expectations and could only be described and expressed in a language of music. Grofe’s ‘Grand Canyon Suite’ for a symphonic orchestra captures the majesty and grace of what he experienced and saw that day. The musical theme opens with a single piccolo playing and mimicking a bird call. The composition progresses and overflows with millions of sounds and musical imagery as more and more instruments join in. Ferde Grofe used every instrument available in the symphonic orchestra to portray the stunning beauty of Sunrise over the Grand Canyon. Listening to this work one can almost feel the light and warmth of the rising sun, smell, see and fully experience the waking up of nature to a new day and new beginning.
The splendor and magnificence of the Grand Canyon captivated and inspired countless others before and after Ferde Grofe. It is amazing to reflect and recognize that this natural wonder was carved and shaped by water, the Colorado river forging, forming and giving birth to this astonishing marvel through the course of millions of years.
Water is the ultimate symbol and precondition of life. It makes up more than sixty percent of our bodies and covers more than seventy percent of our planet. Water gives life, shapes and transforms everything it comes in contact with. It nourishes, rejuvenates our bodies and plays a vital role in our physical health and well-being. Water is equally essential for our spiritual well-being. But unlike biological water, spiritual water is often more elusive, hard to define, find and experience.
In Today’s Gospel reading, we find our Lord with his disciples among a large crowd gathered in Jerusalem from every corner of Israel to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Water was an important part of this feast. On the first day of the festivity, a large possession with priests and pilgrims would go to the pool of Siloam to bring up to the Temple a golden container of water. On the last day, the priest would go around the altar seven times and pour out the water symbolizing the great water liberation. It is in the midst of this excitement, celebration and ritualistic fascination with water that Christ “stood and said in a loud voice, Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-38).
While we might not be able to fully comprehend, feel and discern it, ‘the rivers of living waters’ outpouring from the loving heart of our Lord and Savior continuously flow through our bodies and souls. Like water, our faith in Christ purifies and cleanses, satisfies the thirst of our souls for a meaning and reason in life. Faith in Christ rejuvenates and brings forth life and joy when our souls and minds resemble a lifeless desert of hopelessness, grief, despair and anxiety. The living waters of faith slowly but continuously and tirelessly carve, shape and transform us internally. They forge and bring forth beauty, hope, faith and love, positive outlook for our present and future, give us strength and reason to live and live fully, joyfully and peacefully, always and in all things feeling the presence of our life-giving Lord in our lives, sustaining and watching over us.
Humanity often changes the course of rivers, confines its path, builds walls and levees. Sometimes, perhaps unintentionally, we build and create barriers and obstacles for the waters of the spiritual rivers too. This prevents its life-giving waters to flow freely through our lives and deprives our souls of its nurturing touch. Let us prayerfully examine the barriers that we might have created, let us tear them down and allow the healing rivers of faith to reach our souls, restore and heal us.