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Folded Time: Poems for Good Friday

'Love is that liquor sweet and most divine, which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.' -George Herbert



As Kahlil Gibran says, this is a day that has occupied the minds of philosophers, thinkers, and poets for millennia. And as Marty Solomon explores, there has been no shortage of theories throughout church history surrounding atonement and what exactly this cosmically dark, gruesome, and mysterious day means.


While wading through all of this dialogue, there remains a different invitation. One to participate in this ancient and mighty story and not just mentally ponder in an ivory tower safely from afar. Instead, folded time is a call to experience the paradoxes of the crucifixion story and say with George Herbert, ‘Love is that liquor sweet and most divine, which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine’.


And now, some poems on the cross.


Love’s as Warm as Tears C.S. Lewis

Love’s as warm as tears,

Love is tears:

Pressure within the brain,

Tension at the throat,

Deluge, weeks of rain,

Haystacks afloat,

Featureless seas between

Hedges, where once was green.


Love’s as fierce as fire,

Love is fire:All sorts–

Infernal heat

Clinkered with greed and pride,

Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,

Laughing, even when denied,

And that empyreal flame

Whence all loves came.


Love’s as fresh as spring,

Love is spring:

Bird-song in the air,

Cool smells in a wood,

Whispering “Dare! Dare!”

To sap, to blood,

Telling “Ease, safety, rest,

Are good; not best.”


Love’s as hard as nails,

Love is nails:

Blunt, thick, hammered through

The medial nerves of One

Who, having made us, knew

The thing He had done,

Seeing (what all that is)

Our cross, and His.



The Agony by George Herbert

Philosophers have measur’d mountains,

Fathom’d the depths of the seas, of states, and kings,

Walk’d with a staff to heav’n, and traced fountains:

But there are two vast, spacious things,

The which to measure it doth more behove:

Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.


Who would know Sin, let him repair

Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see

A man so wrung with pains,

that all his hair,His skin, his garments bloody be.

Sin is that press and vice, which forceth pain

To hunt his cruel food through ev’ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay

And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike

Did set again abroach, then let him say

If ever he did taste the like.

Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,

Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.


Here’s a version of it being read aloud on a podcast with a bit of background on George Herbert:




The Coming by R. S. Thomas

And God held in his hand

A small globe. Look he said.

The son looked. Far off,

As through water, he saw

A scorched land of fierce

Colour. The light burned

There; crusted buildings

Cast their shadows: a bright

Serpent, a river

Uncoiled itself, radiant

With slime.              

 On a bare


Hill a bare tree saddened

The sky. Many people

Held out their thin arms

To it, as though waiting

For a vanished April

To return to its crossed

Boughs. The son watched

Them. Let me go there, he said.



Picture taken in New College Chapel, Oxford.

The Crucified by Kahlil Gibran

‘On this one day of each year, the philosophers leave their dark caves, and the thinkers their cold cells, and the poets their imaginary arbours, and all stand reverently upon that silent mountain, listening to the voice of a young man saying of His killers, "Oh Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing…


On this day of each year, Humanity wakes with the awakening of Spring, and stands crying below the suffering Nazarene; then she closes her eyes and surrenders herself to a deep slumber. But Spring will remain awake, smiling and progressing until merged into Summer, dressed in scented golden raiment. Humanity is a mourner who enjoys lamenting the memories and heroes of the Ages....


Jesus was not a bird with broken wings; He was a raging tempest who broke all crooked wings. He feared not His persecutors nor His enemies. He suffered not before His killers. Free and brave and daring He was. He defied all despots and oppressors. He saw the contagious pustules and amputated them....


He muted Evil and He crushed Falsehood and He choked Treachery. Jesus came not from the heart of the circle of Light to destroy the homes and build upon their ruins the convents and monasteries. He did not persuade the strong man to become a monk or a priest, but He came to send forth upon this earth a new spirit, with power to crumble the foundation of any monarchy built upon human bones and skulls....


He came to demolish the majestic palaces, constructed upon the graves of the weak, and crush the idols, erected upon the bodies of the poor. Jesus was not sent here to teach the people to build magnificent churches and temples amidst the cold wretched huts and dismal hovels.... He came to make the human heart a temple, and the soul an altar, and the mind a priest.’

These are excerpts from an essay and poem, go to this link to read it in full.




Picture Taken at Pusey House Chapel, Oxford

Other Resources on Atonement and Good Friday


Sources

All artwork is from the Visual Commentary on Scripture project by King’s College London. Many of the poems were found in Word in the Wilderness by Malcolm Guite.


Drinking in the oddities and beauties around me.


Cheers.

Carolyn


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