Heading Into Holy Week 2012

In this crazy uncertain world there are many people who face the future with anxiety and worries coupled with a great deal of anger.

In difficult economic times people can lose faith and and it is also a time of increasing inter and intra faith divisions. 

Many committed people enter Holy Week this year with a faith that is ever deeply challenged. Some have cut their links with the institutional church, disillusioned and sadly disconnected from the sense of Christian community which previously had sustained them.

Holy Week and the beautiful services of the Triduum that run from Holy Thursday through to Easter Sunday are  a special gift to us to take time out of normal routine to spend it with Jesus who longs for us to draw close to enter the mystery of the last few days surrounding His life, death and Resurrection.
It is an experience that will take us across boundaries between ourselves and God to allow us to connect.

Holy Week has much to offer no matter where we find ourselves in our life journey:

to enter suffering, to confront the darkness and pain of rejection and betrayal in and around us, to be judged and convicted and then to face death.  

We can't do it on our own and we are not on our own- we are in the presence of  a loving God.

Somehow I pray that we all manage to come through it with restored hope and belief in the transforming power of Christ who loves us beyond our imaginings.

Be Still For The Presence of the Lord

Be still, for the presence of the Lord, The Holy One, is here.
Come bow before him now, with reverence and fear.
In him no sin is found, we stand on holy ground.
Be still for the presence of the Lord, The Holy One, is here.

Be still for the glory of the Lord is shining all around.
He burns with holy fire, with splendour he is crowned.
How awesome is the sight, our radiant King of light!
Be still for the glory of the Lord is shining all around

Be still for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.
He comes to cleanse and heal, to minister his grace.
No work too hard for him, in faith, receive from him.
Be still for the power of the Lord is moving in this place.

Holy Week is a time when I realise in a very deep and personal way that Christ can destroy the boundaries that mankind sets up to separate us from God.

Christ was the Son of God who died for all of us to show that we do not need to scapegoat anyone because there are no boundaries between God and us.

The opportunity to encounter God is an invitation made possible to any person and it is infused with a power to profoundly change our lives for all time. 

The Summons

The poetry of R.S. Thomas often begins at a place where mankind's search for meaning questions itself from a place of disengagement from any sense or need of God.

He describes a society that increasingly discards the conventions of traditional practice and where it is apparent that the message of the Gospel is not getting through or connecting to people. 

In the process mankind seems to be wasting away in desolation.

But Thomas turns the situation around and expresses the hope of Christianity through the message of the Gospels.

The suffering of Christ is difficult to understand but seems to offer an answer for all our waywardness and the enduring belief in His Resurrection and our own is one I share.

The Word
 from Mass For Hard Times R.S Thomas 1992.

Enough that we are on our way;
never ask of us where.
Some of us run, some loiter,
some of us turn aside
to erect the Calvary
that is our signpost, arms
pointing in opposite directions
to bring us in the end
to the same place, so impossible
is it to escape love. Imperishable
scarecrow, recipient of our cast-offs,
shame us until what is a swearword
only becomes at last
the Word that was in the beginning.

The last line of this poem portrays well the familiar tortuous struggle mankind increasingly has with God. 

Through centuries of breathtaking scientific progress, the more advanced a society is the more it seeks to shed belief in God. 

 Paradoxically, the more we own or have, the more difficulty we seem to have in seeing and encountering the divine.

The danger in our world is that the Word of God will be shut out.

 But the poem shows the ever present committed "scarecrow God ", who takes on all our cast off beliefs that we throw away and resolutely absorbs all the hatred that we throw until we recover our sense of connection. 

We are in a continuous process of being reconciled with God.
and hope that these words of Christ "I shall draw all "men "to Myself," will be fulfilled.

                                                                 Image source for Linnet


(From Between Here and Now, 1981)

Who to believe?
The linnet sings bell-like,
a tinkling music. It says life
is contained here; is a jewel
in a shell casket, lying
among down. There is another
voice, far out in space
whose persuasiveness is the distance
from which it speaks. Divided
mind, the message is always
in two parts. Must it be
on a cross it is made one ?

The linnet offers to the world her glittering song announcing the impending arrival of new life. This is visible and tangible in the material world, momentarily contained inside her precious shell casket in the nest below her feet.

 Her egg ‘jewel’ is set against the mystery of the word of God, in whom the creative source and unity of all life is contained but this perception appears distant from us in a different world.

Thomas sets the two worlds apart and then fuses them together in a perennial question: “Divided mind, the message is always in two parts. Must it be on a cross it is made one?”

The voice of God leads us to a new life that Jesus invites all of us to share in.

Benedictus from R.S. Thomas

Blessed be the starved womb
and the replete womb.
Blessed the slug in the dew
and the butterfly among the ash-cans.
Blessed the mind that brings forth good and bad
and the hand that exonerates it.
Blessed be the adder among its jewels
and the child ignorant of how love must pay.
Blessed the hare who, in a round
world, keeps the tortoise in sight.
Blessed the cross warning: No through road,
and that other Cross with its arms out pointing both ways.
Blessed the woman who is amused
at Adam feeling for his lost rib.
Blessed the clock with its hands over its face
pretending it is midday, when it is midnight.
Blessed be the far side of the Cross and the back
of the mirror, that they are concealed from us.

R.S. Thomas, Benedictus, from “Mass for Hard Times”, Mass for Hard Times (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1992) 

They set up their decoy
in the Hebrew sunlight. What
for? Did they expect
death to come sooner
to disprove his claim
to be God’s son? Who
can shoot down God?
Darkness arrived at
midday, the shadow
of whose wing? The blood
ticked from the cross, but it was not
their time it kept. It was no
time at all, but the accompaniment
to a face staring,
as over twenty centuries
it has stared, from unfathomable
darkness into unfathomable light.

R.S. Thomas, from “Crucifixion”, Counterpoint (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1990), p. 40.
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Dome of the Rotunda of the Church of the Holy ...
Dome of the Rotunda of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


(From Pietà, 1966)

Always the same hills
Crowd the horizon,
Remote witnesses
Of the still scene.
And in the foreground
The tall Cross,
Sombre, untenanted,
Aches for the Body
That is back in the cradle
Of a maid’s arms.

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