Collect for Candlemas

Almighty and ever-living God, we humbly beseech thy majesty: that, as thine Only-Begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh; so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Meditations for Holy Week 2016

I generally publish a series of meditations on the days of Holy Week every year, and 2016 is no exception. I’ve been a little briefer than usual, providing no more than selections from Christian poets (mostly Catholics and Anglicans); however, since Spy Wednesday and Good Friday feature a hymn and a piece of plainsong, respectively, I’ve also linked to some good versions of those two pieces.

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Palm Sunday

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labour to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearely’I love you,’and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe,
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.1

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Fig Monday

Far-called, our navies melt away;
  On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
  Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If drunk, with sight of power, we loose
  Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
  Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
  In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
  And guarding calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!2

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Temple Tuesday

But as he descended the hill, a sadness came upon him, and he thought in his heart:
How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.
Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret?
Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache.
It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.
Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.3

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Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
That we to judge thee have in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted!

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and thy life’s oblation;
Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.4

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Maundy Thursday

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green and pleasant land.

‘Would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.’5

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The kingly banners forward go;
The secret of the Cross doth shine,
Where hung in flesh upon its yoke
The Maker of all fleshly kind.

Suspended, He was wounded sore
By fearsome gore of Roman spear,
That our guilt might be washed and pure
With water and with blood asmear.

Now is fulfilled what David sung
Beforehand, psalming faithfully,
Unto Gentile and Jewish tongue:
That God hath reignèd from the tree.

Thou honored, O thou shining Rood,
Adorned in purple of the King,
O chosen out of worthy wood
To touch such limbs behallowing.

Thou blest one, on whose arms as gift
There hung the world’s exalted price:
That Body’s balance scale, that lifts
The prey of Hell to Paradise.

Hail, altar, hail, Victim-Priest,
For glory in Thy sacrifice,
By which life bore up in death-grief
And for death in return gave life.

O Cross, all-hail, O only hope,
Now in this laudsome Passiontide!
Grant grace on grace to faithful folk,
And stain the guilt of sinners white.

O Trinity, salvation’s spring,
Every spirit praise Thee as one:
And those by Thy Cross riddling
Saved, cherish Thou forevermore. Amen.6

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Holy Saturday

And O! Such joy I saw my Lady wear
When to that shining heav’n she entered in,
The planet’s self grew brighter yet with her;
And if the star laughed and was changed, what then
Was I, who am but flesh, and ticklish
To touch of change, and all the moods of men?
As in a fish-pond clear and still, the fish
Draw to some dropped-in morsel as it moves,
Hoping it may provide a dainty dish,
So I saw splendors draw to us in droves,
Full many a thousand, and from each was heard:
‘Lo, here is one that shall increase our loves!’
And every shade approaching us appeared
Glad through and through, so luminously shone
Its flooding joy before it as it neared.7

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Easter Sunday

Seek not to count the future waves of Time;
But be ye satisfied that you have light
Enough to take your step and find your foothold.

O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!
Too bright for mortal vision.
O Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less;
The eastern light our spires touch at morning,
The light that slants upon our western doors at evening,
The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight,
Moon light and star light, owl and moth light,
Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.
O Light Invisible, we worship Thee!

We thank Thee for the lights that we have kindled,
The light of altar and of sanctuary;
Small lights of those who meditate at midnight
And lights directed through the colored panes of windows
And light reflected from the polished stone,
The gilded carven wood, the colored fresco.
Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward
And see the light that fractures through unquiet water.
We see the Light but see not whence it comes.
O Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!

In our rhythm of earthly life we tire of light. We are glad when the day ends, when the play ends; and ecstasy is too much pain.8

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1John Donne, Holy Sonnets XIV.
2Rudyard Kipling, Recessional ll. 13-30.
3Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet paras. 4-9.
4Johann Heerman, Herzliebster Jesu stanzas 1-2, 4 (Robert Bridges translation).
5William Blake, And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time ll. 9-16 and postscript (Numbers 11.29).
6Venantius Fortunatus, Vexilla Regis, stanzas 1, 3-6, 8-10 (my translation).
7Dante Alighieri, Paradiso v.94-108 (Dorothy L. Sayers translation).
8T. S. Eliot, Choruses from ‘The Rock’ X.14-36.

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