Catechism 49

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Detail from "Christ ascends to heaven before his disciples", Melchior Küssell

Where is Christ now?
Christ rose bodily from the grave on the third day after his death and is seated at the right hand of the Father, ruling his kingdom and interceding for us, until he returns to judge and renew the whole world.
(New City Catechism)

And where
if the body stands
is the head?
And where
if the family follows
is the leader?

No bad faith. Though we wait,
this is active:
for I have felt the hands,
though never touching skin, hold on,
and I have heard the voice (no sound)
speak my name and plead.
And I have seen these foes gather as one
united by a merciful head.

And I have heard heaven’s call say, Come up.
Though it tarry,
it won’t delay.

Catechism 48

What is the church?

God chooses and preserves for himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.
(New City Catechism)

Washed and waiting,
fed by Word, by bread, by Spirit –
a body, planned
from beginning, bought
by blood, crafted
by grace, grafted
by cross –
we wait, and show
the kingdom which stands
when nations fall, when bodies crushed
beneath the heel reveal the weight
of Now – we wait,
washed and purchased,
broken, glorious,
scattered, stained
and one.

Catechism 47

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"Communion" by Alphonse Legros, Wikimedia Commons

Does the Lord’s Supper add anything to Christ’s atoning work?
No, Christ died once for all. The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal celebrating Christ’s atoning work; as it is also a means of strengthening our faith as we look to him, and a foretaste of the future feast. But those who take part with unrepentant hearts eat and drink judgment on themselves.
(New City Catechism)

The feast awaits.
Now symbols and nutrients are divided,
vying for space in our minds.
The stomach craves what cannot sate spirit;
vine recalls dirt, bread anticipates yeast –
the work is done, the meal yet to be.
Take and eat. Eat and drink.
Bread cannot do what Spirit’s not done;
what bakes without yeast cannot rise.
Eat, recall; drink and trust:
what’s done has been done
and will prove true
when symbol and food can be one.

Catechism 46

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What is the Lord’s Supper?
Christ commanded all Christians to eat bread and to drink from the cup in thankful remembrance of him and his death. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the presence of God in our midst; bringing us into communion with God and with one another; feeding and nourishing our souls. It also anticipates the day when we will eat and drink with Christ in his Father’s kingdom.
(New City Catechism)

Nothing says it better than this.
We should not be eating here;
crumbs beneath the table are
more than we deserve.
                                      But come –

The table welcomes us, carries for us
the means by which we come.
Water, wine, bread: so elemental,
so assumed, passed by as ordinary.

Heaven in ordinary greets in this meal:
the simplicity of friends gathered at table,
the wonder of friendship
with the Bread and the Vine.

Litany, Rossetti and Cardiphonia-style

In preparing to lead the service at my church this Sunday – looking at Revelation 10-11:14 – I’ve found myself reading some of Christina Rossetti’s devotional commentary on Revelation, Face of the Deep. If you’re looking for a systematic unpacking of a complex book, probably don’t go to Rossetti, but if you want to read some beautiful prayers, poems and reflections by a deep woman of faith, then it’s well worth a read. Here, as a taster, is a fusion of some of her best prayers, modernised slightly to be more easily read today.

I’ve also just discovered this gem of an album from the great folks at Cardiphonia, a collection of songs based around Charles Wesley’s hymns for the Great Litany. It’s not quite the obvious fit for reading Rossetti, but I’m finding it a comforting and inspiring listen.

 

Litany from Revelation 10-11

Adapted from Christina Rossetti, Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse

You who were poor until your baptism was accomplished:

Pity us, accomplish your will in us.

You who finished the work your father gave you to do:

Pity us, finish your work by us and in us.

You who said, “It is finished,” in the ending of your agony:

Pity us, bring us to a good end.

Yes, Lord most pitiful, pity us. Amen.

O merciful Lord Jesus, grant that now your rebuke might enlighten and enkindle us, so it will not consume us.

You who once made yourself as a man in whose mouth was no reproof, rebuke us, but with justice, not in your anger, or you would bring us to nothing.

You who became a reproof among your enemies and neighbours, save us from the reproof of the one that could consume us.

You who know our reproof, our shame and our dishonour, deliver us from our enemies, who are all in your sight.

O Christ, the saint of saints, who called us to be saints: in the day of destruction, save us. Christ our refuge, do not exclude us. Our redeemer, do not despise us. Our safety, do not deny us. Our Saviour, do not destroy us. Our brother, do not reject us. Our friend, do not forsake us. Our all in all, do not fail us. Amen.

Krateo

Nicolas Poussin - Saint Pierre et saint Jean guérissant le boiteux, 1655
Nicolas Poussin – Saint Pierre et saint Jean guérissant le boiteux, 1655

While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s…
(Acts 3:11)

Why cling?
Fear, perhaps. The crowd, after all,
lunged and lurched about,
amazed hands raised,
indignant, astonished;
how might this seem
to eyes which had beheld, rejected,
hands which had held and seized.
Too much too soon;
the world had not the ready hearts
it took to take such miracles to heart…
Clung, perhaps, to wait out the storm,
to see how would the crowd change shape,
and crowd and cloud the truth around him.
Clung, perhaps, for refuge.

Or did he cling as we must cling?
Cling as those before had failed.
Every day, the servant said,
I stood and taught, and never did
you seize me then. The failure spoke
much more than all their loud deeds could:
to behold, daily, yet not take hold,
to have in reach, yet never clutch,
to see open hands, yet never grip.

Now the servant’s servants stood
and he must cling – for life, for safety –
all this – yes –
yet also
joy: at strength in deadened limbs;
and power: for greater things would soon be done;
and trust: above all, trust. The Crucified
had power still!
No silver, no gold in hand; only the Name.
And to that Name        he clung.

Eikon

No mirror to reflect,
no voice, only      dust,
sculpted by hands,
                             crafted by plan.
No self-stirring spirit,
no knowledge,     no thrust,
only dust, fingerprinted,
moulded –   with tears
and with blood    and with sweat –
now we stand,
                    heart and body,
earthenware image,
dust reflecting
      in praise.

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Doxa

White though simple carries every colour.
Glory – small word – is manifold.
Break apart light and find prismatic wonder.
None of this has words.

What then? What sounds can be made to stir hearts?
The Word – singular yet many pleats,
Many rooms – beams and breathes from beginning.
How can we reveal?

We cannot. Only delight. The revealing is done
So revel, marvel. Stand back in amaze.
No tweet. In an instant, a gram of this can be lost
Yet Glory’s weight compels.

Throw off light and momentary. Minds explode with triune truth.
Saying is simple; sound has many ripples.
Light waves and darts and ruins categories.
Your first and only crime was to ignore true Glory.
Stop. Be blown away.

Catechism 45

Is baptism with water the washing away of sin itself?
No, only the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit can cleanse us from sin.
(New City Catechism)

    God, no water is enough.
Stains worsen when washed deeper in;
this is the deepest, from Adam to now.
       Only blood
    can wash away blood;
      only pure Breath can restore breath.
Nothing giving; the remedy hurts worse than the ill.
    Yet grace gives us this:
       gentle water as symbol,
    another’s death as the price,  impossible signed
    in this simplest plunge,
       the stain
   taken right back to the source.

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Masaccio, "Baptism of Neophytes", Wikimedia Commons

Catechism 44

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What is baptism?
Baptism is the washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; it signifies and seals our adoption into Christ, our cleansing from sin, and our commitment to belong to the Lord and to his church.
(New City Catechism)

Why water? First
He hovered, spirit, above the depths,
divided water in sky from land,
said, “Here shall your proud waves be stopped,
here go no further.”

Yet then, when earth
had sickened and man had withered His image,
He took out the stopper and let the waves pour forth.
Now He bids

water flow over bodies
and into hearts, cleansing, reversing
the tides of shame, of uncreation; now pours
Spirit flooding with life, where only
death once hovered.

Take the waves, take
the plunge. Life beckons.
Still His Spirit hovers and breathes
into the dead, still He makes
and remakes and remakes.