Tag Archives: Christ the King

April 6: Before the Cross XXII: Greater love hath no man.

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This image has always troubled me, since the day I first found a copy in a second-hand picture frame. This window is at Hythe in Kent, remembering a nineteen year old officer of the Royal Lancaster Regiment, Robert Aubrey Hildyard, seen dying at the foot of the Cross, his right hand on Christ’s feet, the feet Mary anointed with precious oil. At the foot of the cross lies Robert’s helmet, and a scroll reading, ‘Greater love hath no man’. We can all complete Jesus’ words: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15:13).

soldier.crucifx.hythe.detailRobert looks peaceful, asleep, while once again we behold a risen Christ: alive, with good muscle tone; his wounds not bleeding. Robert’s rifle and bayonet and an artillery piece are behind the two figures; there is a hill of mud in the background and angels in attendance above.

Surely this comforted the parents of Robert Hildyard, and no doubt others who lost loved ones, but it makes me uneasy. It seems to associate Christ with the war. Yet no less a poet than Hopkins wrote of a soldier or sailor (a tar):

Yes. Why do we áll, seeing of a soldier, bless him? bless
Our redcoats, our tars? Both these being, the greater part,
But frail clay, nay but foul clay. Here it is: the heart,
Since, proud, it calls the calling manly, gives a guess
That, hopes that, makesbelieve, the men must be no less;
It fancies, feigns, deems, dears the artist after his art;
And fain will find as sterling all as all is smart,
And scarlet wear the spirit of wár thére express.

Hopkins recognises that the men are no plaster saints, but if a man wears a brave uniform we – and he – hope, we and he want to believe him as bravehearted as he is smartly dressed. But no-one was smart at the Somme, where Robert died. Their heroism was different: men drowned in mud or were cut down by machine-gun fire before coming to close combat. Robert himself was killed when a shell hit where he and Godfrey James Wilding were sheltering.

Hopkins continues:

Mark Christ our King. He knows war, served this soldiering through;
He of all can handle a rope best. There he bides in bliss
Now, and séeing somewhére some mán do all that man can do,
For love he leans forth, needs his neck must fall on, kiss,
And cry ‘O Christ-done deed! So God-made-flesh does too:
Were I come o’er again’ cries Christ ‘it should be this’.

For love Christ leans forth to kiss Robert and cry … ‘So God-made-flesh does too!’ What did God-made-flesh do in the War? He did not conquer death and sin with violence.

I think of Jesus, asleep on the rugs in the sinking boat. A flimsy shelter, causing his friends to fear. Jesus sensed their fear, knew that death was close by, calmed the storm. But there was no dramatic rescue for Robert and Godfrey in this world, and no more that they could do. ‘It should be this’: not killing other men, but putting oneself in the firing line.


Why did Robert and Godfrey lay down their lives?

The gesture of touching Christ’s feet suggests that Robert’s parents wanted to associate his death with Christ’s, and saw it as freely given.

Here is another soldier’s take on the daily sacrifices of being a soldier in the Great War. For Joyce Kilmer the freely accepted, everyday deprivations were as a millionth part of Christ’s sufferings:

My shoulders ache beneath my pack 

(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back). 

We published his poem on the centenary of his death last July; click on the link. The post following that is Christina’s response to Kilmer’s poem: Is All Human Suffering The Same Suffering?. Do read that as well.

May we unite our sufferings with the Lord’s, may we grow into the persons he wants us to be, and may we be aware of our own lack of importance and ‘let us render back again /This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.’

MMB

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July 17: John Cassian and Interiority: I

 

Karl Rahner wrote, “The Christian faith professes that God is not merely the God far off….  God wills to be, in self-communication, the ‘content’ and future of man.”  I would like to explore how this may be realised in us, with the assistance of John Cassian.

This might strike some as an unlikely pairing.  Rahner is modern, and John Cassian was born around 360. His birthplace was Dacia (present-day Romania).  How can someone who lived so long ago, and in such a far-away land, possibly help us to understand Karl Rahner’s insight?  Before we begin to answer this question, a bit of background about John Cassian.

Only a few facts about John Cassian have survived time’s ravages.  He was from a well-off family and was well-educated.  In his twenties, he entered a monastery in Bethlehem, and several years later he embarked on a pilgrimage to the then-famous monasteries of Egypt.  He spent perhaps ten years there, learning about the spiritual life from the great Egyptian monastic fathers.

After this long period of training in monastic wisdom, Cassian was ordained to the priesthood.  Finally, he ended up in Marseilles.  There, he founded two monasteries and wrote The Institutes and its companion work, The Conferences.  These are the writings I would like to refer to in the next several posts, for they speak about what, for Cassian, was the only thing that mattered: life with God.

One of the most intriguing terms Cassian uses to describe our inner self is that of the “vessel”.  Cassian first uses the term in his book’s dedication.  Addressed to one Bishop Castor, who himself had founded a monastery and had asked Cassian to write about what he had learned of monasticism in Egypt, Cassian says to the Bishop:

You are setting out to construct a true and spiritual temple for God…out of a community of holy men; and you also desire to consecrate very precious vessels to the Lord out of holy souls that bear within themselves the indwelling of Christ the king (emphasis mine).

 

Here, Cassian is saying that we are created as “containers” – that’s just how we are.  And so we are meant to have something inside.  Rahner says that God wants to be that “something.”  So does Cassian.  For both Cassian and Rahner, what makes us precious is not a thing, but a person: God.  Christ himself.  If we bear Christ within, we shine with his goodness.  How?  That is something that we will explore.

SJC.

Dear Friends,

This post somehow got out of sequence. My apologies! It will reappear on July 17th as advertised, to be followed by the rest of Sister Johanna’s reflections. WT.

If we bear Christ within, we shine with his goodness. St Maurice, Switzerland, MMB.

 

 

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April 9: Bryn Myrddin; Great is the Lord Eternal.

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Our David has lived in Kent most of his life, but he is still a Welshman, prone to hiraeth. Here he has translated an Easter hymn for us. A most Celtic Theology, I feel. WT.

mercylogoGreat is the Lord Eternal.

Great was Christ through eternity,

Great for taking the form of man.

Great for dying on Calvary,

Great for conquering his own death.

Very glorious is he now, King of Heaven and Earth.

 

Great was Jesus in the purpose,

Great in the peace covenant,

Great in Bethlehem and Calvary,

Great for rising from the grave,

Very Great he’ll be one day when all things hidden are revealed.

 

Great is Jesus in his person,

Great as God and Great as man,

Great his beauty and amiability,

Fair and rosy –cheeked his face,

Great is He on his throne in Heaven.

DBP.

To hear Bryn Myrddin sung by a Welsh Choir, click here: Cor Meibion y Traeth .

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Christ the King V

crux (427x528)There are many interpretations of the Cross; often it is portrayed in isolation but here it is at the centre of the story of Holy Week and Easter.

Jesus, crowned with thorns, is looking death in the face, unflinching. He is the King of the Jews and of everyone else. He is dying on his Father’s terms. He will descend into death and Hell, but his humanity and divinity will not thereby be diminished.

Watch this space: watch and pray.

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