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Bathed in a Sea of Light: Vos’s Lord’s Day Poem

The father of Reformed biblical theology was also a lifelong poet. Vos published eight volumes of poetry brimming with some two hundred poems in total. The controlling principle in his poetry was the same as in his dogmatics and biblical theology: the preeminence of God’s glory in the consideration of all that has been created. His poetic impulse was born in his early Dutch Reformed context, shaped especially by the legacy of the romanticist, Willem Bilderdijk, and his Amsterdam professor, Willem J. Hofdijk. But this impulse took a distinctly religious shape most notably from Vos’s reading of the prophet Isaiah, the “salvation-poet, salvation-herald.”[1] Vos says regarding Isaiah,

there is always the unmistakable note of sovereign power bespeaking the prophet who is at the same time a poet by the grace of God. Isaiah’s influence on the formal development of sacred poetry has proved as great and lasting as that exercised in his contribution to the body of revealed truth.[2]

Vos’s own poetry remains an untapped source of insight into his all-encompassing, God-centered mind and heart.

In one volume of Vos’s poems, Spiegel der natuur (Mirror of Nature), is found a short poem inspired by a particular Sunday when the foretaste of the heavenly and eschatological rest was noticeably strong and nourishing. The poem is entitled, “Dies Solis” (“Sunday”).

This is a Sunday which can well be called a sun day;
I have bathed both body and soul in a sea of light,
have washed off my everyday doing and knowing,
have of heavenly wine tasted and wedding food eaten,
and blessedly sat listening by the way,
along which the singing holy procession goes.[3]

Vos employs a wordplay on the Dutch zondag (Sunday) and zonnedag (solar day or sun day). The name of the day contains in itself a symbol of what is heavenly. The heavenly nourishes not only his soul, but also gives his body rest. The poem concludes with a pilgrim theme, with him seated on the way, for there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. This poem is the overflow of a heart in which are the highways to Zion.

[1] This is part of Vos’s description of Isaiah in his poem, “Jesaja,” in Spiegel der Genade (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1922), 33: “Heildichter, heilheraut…”
[2] “Some Doctrinal Features of the Early Prophecies of Isaiah,” in The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos: Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (NJ: P&R Publishing, 1980), 272.
[3] My translation. The original Dutch reads:
Dit is een zondag die wel zonnedag mag heeten;
Ik heb én lijf én ziel in zee van licht gebaad,
Heb afgespoeld mijn aldaags-doen en weten,
Van hemelwijn geproefd en bruiloftskost gegeten,
En zalig luistrend bij den weg gezeten,
Waarlangs de zingende hoogtijprocessie gaat.

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