Tag Archives: Son of Man

10 April, Good Friday. Desert XL: Love and woe interwound.

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No crown! the woe instead

Is heavy on his head,

Pressing inward on his brain

With a hot and clinging pain

Till all tears are prest away,

And clear and calm his vision may

Peruse the black abyss.

No rod, no sceptre is

Holden in his fingers pale;

They close instead upon the nail,

Concealing the sharp dole,

Never stirring to put by

The fair hair peaked with blood,

Drooping forward from the rood

Helplessly, heavily

On the cheek that waxeth colder,

Whiter ever, and the shoulder

Where the government was laid.

His glory made the heavens afraid;

Will he not unearth this cross from its hole?

His pity makes his piteous state;

Will he be uncompassionate

Alone to his proper soul?

Yea, will he not lift up

His lips from the bitter cup,

His brows from the dreary weight,

His hand from the clenching cross,

Crying, “My Father, give to me

Again the joy I had with thee

Or ere this earth was made for loss?”

No stir, no sound.

The love and woe being interwound

He cleaveth to the woe;

And putteth forth heaven’s strength below,

To bear.

And that creates his anguish now,

Which made his glory there.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

This is the introduction to the first volume of EBB’s Poetical Works. It sees Christ as a second Adam, atoning for the sins of the first Adam and Eve, ‘fallen humanity, as it went forth from Paradise into the wilderness’. And here is Christ in the wilderness, the desert, of the Cross.

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28th June: Ubi Caritas et Amor Deus ibi est

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It’s the old plainchant antiphon that becomes an earworm: ‘Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus ibi est’ – Where Charity and Love prevail, there God is ever found’ – sung on Maundy Thursday when the priest washes peoples’ feet. I wonder what version of the hymn reached William Blake for him to write this meditation upon it: The Divine Image. Which includes ‘heathen, Turk or Jew’, as we can see.

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To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
All pray in their distress;
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.
For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
Is God, our father dear,
And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love
                            Is Man, his child and care.
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face,
And Love, the human form divine,
And Peace, the human dress.
Then every man, of every clime,
That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine,
Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.
And all must love the human form,
In heathen, Turk, or Jew;
Where Mercy, Love, and Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
A link to Blake’s own engraving of this poem, found in the Blake Archive: Blake’s Divine Image .

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22 March, Tuesday of Holy Week: The Hands of the Wicked.

 

 

mercylogoIn the first of today’s readings Isaiah (49:1-6) awakens to the realisation that, despite his doubts, his life has always rested secure in God’s plan. Although there are times when nothing makes sense and all seems futile, the reality is that God is all in all: the ground of all being; the beginning, middle and end of all that is. And so Psalm 70 reminds us to seek our refuge in the Lord and ask that he free us from the hand of the wicked.

Yet in the gospel (John 13:21-33,36-38) we find Jesus falling into the hands of the wicked. Or so it would seem. But again appearances deceive: the reality is that he does not fall into their hands, but rather submits to them, and in doing so overcomes wickedness. As Julian of Norwich saw (in the words of Denys Turner),

Love wages no wars at all, not even against sin, for love is absolute vulnerability. Love knows no other strategy than that vulnerability, [yet] it is precisely in that victory of sin over love that sin is defeated. In its victory over love, sin defeats itself. Sin’s failure to engage perfect love in a contest on sin’s terms of violence and power is sin’s defeat.

And so it is that what seems to be sin’s greatest victory is in fact its final defeat. On the Cross the Son of Man is glorified, and in him God is glorified. The Cross affirms that God is all in all.

MLT.

Strasbourg Cathedral: Jesus in the hands of the wicked; Our Lady Immaculate and the English Martyrs, the Triumph of the Cross. (MMB)

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Gray Days and a Point of Light.

Margate we live in hope

Margate Beach on a Grey Day

Here, well up there in the Northern Hemisphere, the approach of the Church’s great winter feasts is met by ever shortening days, grayish sunsets subtly shaded with pastel colour, and the gathering shadows of storm-rattled darkness. Even now, as I look out from the giant bay window in my flat toward a slate gray sea, it feels like a slow motion dawn rather than what the clock prosaically states is high noon. And the Church, in her time-tested wisdom, has properly situated the purple cloaked season of waiting and hoping within a test mirrored by nature herself- will the Son of Man ever return; will I ever witness the eastern blaze of a 5:00 AM springtime dawn seen through the very same bay window now shrouded in a feeble mist? One can hope, but for now all I can do is walk my two bemused dogs in the bookended darkness of a seven o’clock dawn and four thirty afternoon sunset.

I have had critics of the Church, harboring grave suspicions of pagan flashbacks, point out the total lack of biblical witness for the date of Christ’s birth, the unlikely probability of shepherds out in the fields in the dead of winter and, far worse, the close congruence of the decadent Roman Saturnalia with the newly minted Feast of the Nativity. Shopping frenzy beginning at mid-November and a near-universal expansion of waistlines don’t help- as a kindly Jehovah’s Witness picture framer said once, utterly confident that I would agree. It seems, though, as if the whole point has been missed. It is the ritual celebration of Christ’s birth and the expectation of God’s promise fulfilled – born of an indestructible hope- that are being celebrated and the vast stage of nature herself hosts the drama. Yes, the shortening days followed by the magic threshold of the Solstice, when that longed for flicker of light begins to wax stronger, formed the reason for the Saturnalia but this has been embodied by the small child laid in a manger; the hope for Emmanuel realized at last.

 

TJH.

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