Anglican Diocese of Armidale

The Anglican Diocese of Armidale exists to glorify God by introducing people to Jesus and helping them home to heaven.

 

A Strange Easter Prayer

I begin with a confession. I was a closet lover of poetry when at school. And this was not a school where students valued the arts and literature. Perhaps, more correctly, I was among a cohort of students who could turn violent if you admitted to such loves. Thankfully I am older now and enjoy the un-bullied moments of a walk through Neram Art Gallery or a contemplative reflection on a poem.

 

As we draw near to another Easter, perhaps I could mention that I was introduced to a piece of poetry by Christina Rossetti. Christina’s occupation was poet. She was English, born December 1830 and died December 1894. You may never have heard of her but you may know the hymn, “Love Came down at Christmas” which she authored. It is not, however, her Christmas hymn I want to share but her poem, “Good Friday.”

 

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,

That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,

To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,

And yet not weep?

 

Not so those women loved

Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;

Not so fallen Peter, weeping bitterly;

Not so the thief was moved;

 

Not so the Sun and Moon

Which hid their faces in a starless sky,

A horror of great darkness at broad noon –

I, only I.

 

Yet give not o’er,

But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;

Greater than Moses, turn and look once more

And smite a rock.

 

Now there’s a poem for the English literature class. A poem born of logos, pathos and ethos. Of course, it would be brave of a 21st Century school teacher to enter such a provocative poem into the school curriculum. Like for an SRE class, a note might need to be sent home to parents inviting them to opt out of such an education.

 

I have often felt like Christina in the run up to Easter. The passion of God for us, expressed in the blood of His Son that was shed for our forgiveness meets the man for whom the actions of God have become so well known, as to lull me into an almost unappreciative stupor. Drop by drop Jesus Christ’s blood was shed as a shepherd in defence of His sheep while not a tear drop falls from one whose heart is stone. Twenty-one centuries ago, drop by drop the blood of God did fall in love, only now to be celebrated with a holiday where hardly a tear of understanding falls.

 

Christina expresses the dilemma of Easter clearly as her poem begins, “Am I a rock, and not a sheep...” In other words, is Jesus Christ a shepherd to my living or am I lifelessly and godlessly disinterested.

 

Christina observes in her poem that loved women lamented Christ’s crucifixion. The fallen man who denied knowing Jesus wept bitterly when he realised his circumstances. Even the condemned criminal was moved to trust, while the very creation was darkened by Christ’s death. As the poem makes clear it bothered Christina Rossetti to not be moved similarly and her response is captured in the final prayerful stanza of her poem,

 

“Yet give not o’er,

But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;

Greater than Moses, turn and look once more

And smite a rock.”

 

It seems an odd things to suggest but perhaps this Easter you could pray with Christina “Please smite my heart of rock.” An answer to this prayer will forever be a blessing.