The next assignment I’ve been planning to do from Writing in the Margins is an invitation to consider Zechariah 8. I’ve been putting off diving into Zechariah, just because I find the prophets so hard to read. I suspect the tranquil life I lead as an American in a peaceful, rural area sometimes leaves me feeling removed from the experiences described by the prophets. Last night, I had an idea. I don’t know how well it will work, but I thought of reading through the first eight chapters of Zechariah while learning more about the situation in Syria and praying for the country.
Bear with me: the idea came to me while reading the book The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele. The author talked about learning the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. Suddenly, I just had to hear the Lord’s prayer in Aramaic, and I found the most beautiful, haunting rendition of the Lord’s prayer and listened to it several times. Curiously, the video was produced by a group called IndiaJiva out of India (perhaps, in India, it’s more common to say prayers in the original language?) I’m in a bit over my head, but as far as I can tell, the version of the prayer sung by IndiaJiva is from the liturgy of the Syriac Orthodox Church. It is close to how Jesus would have spoken the words, and it is beautiful.
The first time that I listened to the prayer, I marveled at how foreign the language sounds to my ears. Intellectually, I know that Jesus spoke Aramaic, but somehow, a vision of Jesus persisted in my mind of him speaking in English with the occasional Hebrew word or phrase thrown in. It was one of those things that shouldn’t really have been a shock, but was: Jesus spoke an everyday language completely and totally unfamiliar to me.
The second time listening, I was unexpectedly struck with grief for Syria. I’ve seen the pictures that fill the news, but don’t have a firm understanding of civil war taking place in Syria.
I wanted to put the Aramaic version of the Lord’s prayer somewhere in my journaling Bible. I kept coming back to the idea of praying for peace for Syria and while reading Zechariah. Every phonetic rendition I’ve found is slightly different; I decided to use the version found on a website called Syriac Orthodox Resources. The Aramaic alphabet is equally mysterious to me. This whole experience has been an exercise in stepping into something completely new to me.