All posts tagged: sacrificial imagination

Stations of the Cross 13-14: This Is Ground Zero, Emptiness and Space

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. The pregnant silence of the Cross becomes the heavy silence of the tomb. Love lies buried, encased in the coldness of stone. Yet death’s weight cannot hold him, for his body has been sown into the earth as the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. We have only to wait with patience and with hope for the seed to bud, and blossom, and burst forth from the tomb in newness of life. XIII. Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross His spirit and his life he breathes …

Resurrection Sunday: That Flesh on Which Salvation Hinges

Wait a while. Christ has not yet subdued his enemies, so as to be able to triumph over them in company with his friends… —Tertullian, Carn. Chr. 15 Since I grew up Catholic I take for granted certain Catholic teachings. The idea of a God who died an actual human death (not to mention: rose again several days after the fact) never occurred to me as something absurd. Even today, I forget too easily that according to ordinary human logic, the idea of God being willing to take on human flesh and experience all the vulnerabilities and weaknesses that come with it for the sake of creation is laughable. In other words, I too often neglect to remind myself of the depth of God’s love for us. The Latin Church Father Tertullian (c. 155 – 220) left us with a comprehensive scriptural reflections on these strange realities, the corporeality of Christ’s real human body and resurrection, in the treatises De carne Christi (On the Flesh of Christ) and De resurrectione mortuorum (On the Resurrection of …

Stations of the Cross 11-12: His Final Breath Breathes and Bears Us

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. At the moment of Jesus’ Death during the proclamation of the Passion, the Church bids us kneel, silent in the face of so great a mystery. With silent hearts, then, we ponder the Light that darkness cannot overcome, the Love that gives unto the end, the Death by which death dies. “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.” XI. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross See, as they strip the robe from off his back And spread …

Holy Saturday: Christianity Is Not a Solution to the Problem of Suffering

Difficulties: First, images that make sense poetically have to be coordinated within a narrative flow; this is something I attempt to do for my poem when I comment on it below. Second, what exactly constitutes healing in the Christian sense is made impossibly complex in light of a Crucified Savior who keeps His wounds after the Resurrection. Holy Saturday Oh beat slow, heart of creation – First light! First love! Revelation! First flesh found in Incarnation, Beat the blood to our salvation! Find so within the vein of God tireless tracks to faith untrod ‘til riven, wrecked, rent kavod of unstrung sinews, strums overawed. Clotted, untinctured, tear-sealed tomb, thrice holy still unholy wound. Once empty chamber – sin consume! Once-pierced heart – rise, beat, assume! Leave not me here, alone and free, a bloodless heart that beats for thee! Heart held in blood eternally – find Heart yet held in Trinity! These lyrics are about the longing for salvation. They are voiced by someone who has faith that the man from Galilee is not lost …

Stations of the Cross 9-10: In the Cold Hell Where You Freeze

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. Whereas Jesus’ first and second falls were followed by moments of tenderness in the encounter with his Mother and the women of Jerusalem, this third and final fall is followed by the beginning of the end as Jesus is stripped by the soldiers who prepare him for his Crucifixion. And yet, this end, this Death toward which Jesus draws ever closer, is not the end; rather, it is the beginning. For though the soldiers strip Jesus of his garments and his tunic, they cannot strip him of his identity—even …

Good Friday: Creation Always Exists in Darkness

The predominant Christological concept governing William Congdon’s 1960 painting “Crucifix no. 2” is that of kenosis. The painting conveys a sense of abject abandonment, leaving no doubt that Christ’s self-sacrificial act of obedience, “to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8), is indeed an ultimate form of self-emptying, and especially so, not in spite of, because of his being the God-Man. Beyond this immediate kenotic impression conveyed by the work, the Christological insights of Hans Urs von Balthasar can flesh out further the significance of this particular representation of Christ. How we understand Christ’s relationship to his mission and the significance of this relationship in Congdon’s image will be our focus. Then we will consider what it means to involve ourselves in the viewing of Christ’s mission–as Congdon’s representation does—especially in light of the fact that Christ is the ultimate form of revelation, the image that in fact structures all revelation. We shall ultimately see that theological reflection and artistic representation inform and draw out the deepest meanings of one another so …

Stations of the Cross 7-8: The Cruel Repetitions of Our Cruelty

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. Jesus’s first fall is followed by meeting his Blessed Mother. His second is followed by meeting the women of Jerusalem. Moments of excruciating agony and humiliation give way (however briefly) to moments of extreme tenderness and empathy. As Jesus’s pain intensifies in the second fall, so also the scope of his Passion broadens in the encounter with the women of Jerusalem: Jesus’s prophesy indicates that his Death is no ordinary death. It will forever change the course of human history; there is no time or place or person that …

Holy Thursday: When Love Enters a Cosmos Turned in on Itself

When pure love, divine love, agape, enters a world turned in on itself, a world whose operating system is self-love, closed off by fear from any other possibility, such pure love is neither fully received nor fully reciprocated. In such a fallen and rebellious cosmos, that pure love, divine love, encountering indifference, denial, and rejection, is not welcomed with humility and delight, but is refracted in suffering. Such pure love can be expressed fully in a sinful and contorted world only as sacrifice. For rational creatures whose will is wounded—that is, for us—real love, pure love, agape, will always involve some kind of dying. St. John tells us that as Jesus initiated his Last Supper with his disciples, he was fully aware of what he was doing, fully aware of what this meal anticipated and made sacramentally present, fully aware of it was going to cost him. Further, the Evangelist links this full knowledge with a fullness of love, the real impetus of his action, commenting that Jesus loved his own—and loved them perfectly, or …

Stations of the Cross 5-6: Bystanders and Bypassers Turn Away

Throughout this Holy Week, we will be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal. In these next two Stations we are presented with two contrasting personas: Simon, whose reaction to his initial encounter with Jesus might be characterized as, “There but for the grace of God go I,” and Veronica, whose reaction might be characterized as, “There with all the grace of God go I.” Simon is pressed into service; Veronica offers hers freely in love. And yet, both are in their own way transfigured by their encounter with the suffering Christ: Simon quite literally learns to imitate Jesus by taking up the Cross, and …

Martyrdom Is No Bloodless Myth

The fifth canto of the British poet Geoffrey Hill’s poem “Genesis” contains what I think are among the most quietly terrifying lines in modern English religious verse: By blood we live, the hot, the cold To ravage and redeem the world: There is no bloodless myth will hold. And by Christ’s blood are men made free Though in close shrouds their bodies lie Under the rough pelt of the sea; Though Earth has rolled beneath her weight The bones that cannot bear the light. Hill structures his poem around the days of biblical creation, each day placing himself in the immanent frame of the divinely-authored world, a world right on the razor’s edge where despoliation and redemption meet with such a mathematical precision that neither seems to intermingle with the other. The violence of Hill’s sinful world resists its redemption through the generation of pain and the production of blood; the redeemer, however, meets blood with blood, his own blood, a counter-blood by which “are men made free.” Thus, when Hill delivers the line, “There …