A Devotion on the Symbols of the Passion

JMJ

From A Book of the Love of Jesus, A Collection of Ancient English Devotions in Prose and Verse, compiled and Edited by Fr Robert Hugh Benson (1915). Retrieved from the Archive, here. I’ve not edited the text at all so some of the words may include off-puttings, odd-spellings, or punctuations.

O VERNACLE I honour him and thee,
That thee made through his privity;
The cloth he set upon his ſace,
The print he left there, of his grace,
His mouth, his nose, his eyen too,
His beard, his hair, he did also ;
Shield me for all that in my life
That I have sinned with senses five,
Namely, with mouth of slandering,
Of false oaths and of backbiting,
And made boast with tongue also,
Of all the sins committed too,
Lord of heaven, forgive them me,
Through sight of the figure that I here see.

This knife betokeneth circumcision;
Thus he destroyed sin, all and some,
Of our forefather old Adam
Through whom we nature took of man.
From temptation of lechery
Be my succour when I shall die.

The pelican his blood did bleed
Therewith his nestlings for to feed :
This betokeneth on the rood
How our Lord fed us with his blood,
When he us ransomed out of hell
In joy and bliss with him to dwell,
And be our father and our food,
And we his children meek and good.

The pence also that Judas told,
For which Lord Jesu Christ was sold,
Shield us from treason and avarice
Therein to perish in no wise.

The lantern where they bare the light
When Christ was taken in the night ;
May it light me from nightly sin
That I never be seized therein.

Swords and staven that they bare
Jesu Christ therewith to fear;
From fiends, good Lord, do thou keep me,
Of them afraid that I not be.

Christ was stricken with a reed,
With it the Jews did break his head ;
With good cheer and mildest mood,
All he suffered and still he stood.
When I wrong any, or any me,
Be it forgiven for that pity !

The hand, O Lord, that tare thy hair,
And the hand that clapped thee on the ear,
May that pain be my succour there
That I have sinned with pride of ear ;
And of all other sins also
That with mine ears have I hearkened to !

The Jew that spat in God’s own face;
For that he suffered, give us grace,
What I have reviled, or any me,
For that despite, forgiven it be !

The cloth before thine eyen too
To buffet thee they knit it so;
May it preserve me from vengeance,
Of childhood and of ignorance
And of other sins also,
That I have with mine eyes done too,
And with my nostrils sins of smell
That I have done when sick or well !

The garment white that had seam none,
The purple they laid lot upon,
Be they my succour and my keeping,
For my body’s use of soft clothing !

With great reeds thou wert sorely dashed,
With scourges painful sorely lashed;
May that pain rid me of sins these,
Namely, of sloth and idleness !

The crown of thorn, on thine head thrust,
That tare thine hair, and thy skin buist,
Shield me from hell-pit’s agony
That I deserve through my folly !

To the pillar, Lord, also
With a rope they bound thee too;
The sinews from the bones did burst
So hard ’twas drawn and strainéd fast;
That bond release me and unbind
Of that I’ve trespassed and been unkind. !

The cross behind on his backbone,
That he suffered death upon,
Give me grace while yet I live
Clean of sin me for to shrive,
And thereto give true penitence,
And to fulfil here my penance !

Thou bare the cross and took thy gait
Out of Jerusalem’s city-gate;
All thy footsteps sweet and good
Were seen through shedding of thy blood;
Thou met with women of Bethlehem
And also of Jerusalem,
And all wept for thine agony;
To them thou saidest openly :
Now weep ye not for this my woe,
But for your children weep also ;
For them ye may lament full sore.
And your salt tears for them down pour;
For they shall have great torment hard
An hundred winters here-afterward.
Those steps of thine give us pardon
When forth we go with devotion
On pilgrimage on horse or foot,
Of all our sins be they our boot* !

*help

The nails through feet and hands also,
Help they me out of sin and woe
That I have here in my life done,
With hands handled, or on feet gone !

The hammer, Lord, both stern and great,
That drove the nails through hands and feet,
Be it my succour in my life
If any smite me with staff or knife !

The vessel with vinegar and gall
May it keep me from the sins all
That to the soul are venom dread,
That thereby I be not poisoned !

Though thou thirsted sore withal
They gave thee vinegar and gall;
From what I have drunken in gluttony
May it save me when I shall die;
That, Lord, now I pray to thee
For that grievance thou suffered for me !

Lord, that spear so sharply ground,
Within thy heart which made a wound,
Quench the sin that I have wrought,
Or in my heart have evil thought,
And of my stout pride thereto,
And mine unbuxomness also !

The ladder set up by occasion
When thou wert dead to be taken down,
When I am dead in any sin
Take me that I die not therein !

The tongs that drew the sharp nails out
Of feet and hands and all about,
And loosed thy body from the tree,
Of all my sins may they loose me !

The sepulchre wherein was laid H
is blessed body all be-bled,
May he send me ere that I die
Sorrow of heart and tear or eye,
Clear and cleanséd that I be,
Ere to my grave I betake me !
So that I may on the Doomsday
To judgment come without dismay,
And wend to bliss in company
Wherein a man shall never die,
But dwell in joy with our Lord right;
There is aye day and never night,
That ever lasts withouten end :—
Now jesu Christ us thither send ! Amen.

None other Gods

JMJ

The Readings for the 3rd Sunday of Lent (B2)

Non habebis deos alienos coram me.
Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 

There are spoilers in this essay relating to the plot line of a very good book. But the book was published 100 years ago, so it should be ok. 

There are those who say that there is proof in the Old Testament for other gods. Even God himself acknowledges other gods. Of course there are other gods – only a fool would not realize that. If reality exists, there must be fakes as well. But the other elohim are not gods like YHVH, even if they are gods in our heart. The Exodus text in Hebrew uses the word “Elohim” for “gods” here. But in the book of Genesis, it is the Elohim, same word, translated usually as “God” that, in the very first verse of the Bible, is the creator of heaven and earth. It is this same word, used one verse earlier, when God describes himself. “I am YHVH your Elohim.” There are gods and there are antigods. There are positive things we put up to distract us from God and there are negative ones as well. We can worship an idol – a false god – or we can claim to disprove God and so not worship any gods… but anything that distracts us from truth is an idol. It takes the place of God: it is a false one.

Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson wrote a wonderful piece of fiction called None other Gods. It is perhaps my favourite work of religions fiction, actually. I don’t mean that it’s better than fictions by CS Lewis (which are allegories) or Tolkien (which have religious philosophy behind them). I mean it’s religious fiction. There is a story to tell and religion is part of it. It’s not allegorized, it’s solid. The main character – Frank – becomes Roman Catholic, is disowned by his family, deserted and betrayed by his friends, expelled from school… and dies praying a rosary after being beat up by the pimp of a prostitute he’s just liberated.

It takes place at a time in the early 20th Century when it was perfectly legal to be Roman Catholic in the UK. But it was not something nice people did. Benson did it as well and so did his hero, (now Blessed) John Henry Cardinal Newman. But Frank did it in the book and it instantly cost him everything he had. He was homeless by page 7. 

This is what God means by “Thou shalt have no strange gods.” We are surrounded by them. The god of Society, the god of Politics, the god of Don’t Judge Me, the god of Relativism, the god of Scientism, the god of Money, the god of Guns, the god of Nationalism, the god of Atheism, the god of Acceptability, the god of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, the god of White Picket Fences and 2.4 kids.  We have so many gods that we can place before God.

Frank spends the most part of the book wandering from town to town as a Tramp, as it was called, although he also spends time in Prison for a crime committed by someone else, and he forgives everyone. And he does, as noted, free a woman from her pimp, returning her to her family,  only to get killed for it. Frank did all of this rather than go back on the promises he made to a Roman Catholic Priest one afternoon, having discovered that there was a Real, Absolute, and Irrefutable Truth. His name is Jesus and his Body is the Unam Sanctam, Catholicam, et Apostolicam Ecclesiam. 

And Frank would have no other gods from that point on.

Christ is a stumbling block to both Jews and Gentiles. The former because they ignored all the signs and the latter because how can a political criminal from a 3rd world country be the creator and ruler of all things? Admittedly, most of the modern world doesn’t care about the signs and they ask, essentially, the same question: how can a dead guy from 2000 years ago in a poverty-ridden corner of imperial repression mean anything to us today?

If you find the answer, you may be like Frank. Jesus will enter your heart with cords and drive out every one of those other gods as with a whip. There will be no corner where you can hide and continue your worship of Ba’al or Diana, of Trump or Bernie, of Abortion or Condoms, of Money or Drugs, of any other god. And – I speak from solid, repeated experience here – when you try to sneak them back in the glaring light of reality is so bright that you look at them and say, “What was I thinking?”

In the propers for the office of Vespers for pastors (read on the feast of certain bishops like Basil the Great or Francis de Sales) there is a line from  the intercessions that makes me gasp every time I hear it.

You yourself are the only visible possession of our holy pastors. The Latin, Qui pastórum sanctórum ipse posséssio exstitísti, seems to read more like “You are the only existing possession…” You, Christ, are the only possession of our pastors… why is that not true of all of us?