Lay this body down… – Streaming Page CXVI’s “Good Friday to Easter” Day Three

What now? Death

takes the best; the body droops

upon the Cross. We look;

the sting in eyes declares

that all is done.

 

It is finished. What?

Are we done for, Lord? Where

the hopes and fears of all

the years, once met in You?

Where now? All done?

 

All done for?

What next? Take the body down

and wait? The evening yawns.

Swing low, sweet chariot, come.

Come take us home.

 

Go to Dark Gethsemane: Streaming Page CXVI’s “Good Friday to Easter” Day 2

Detail from "The Garden of Gethsemane" by Thomas Kelly http://thecatholiccatalogue.com/feast-of-st-james/
Detail from “The Garden of Gethsemane” by Thomas Kelly
http://thecatholiccatalogue.com/feast-of-st-james/

First the garden.

And this first betrayal:

friends asleep

when most needed; then –

another

in the wings, a kiss

at the ready;             a sword,

the sternness of armies

come to slay a spotless lamb.

 

O Christ –

I have not even a sword;

only betrayers’ kisses

heaped with pride.

Why must You bleed, even now?

When legions of angels could

take You away?

Why must You take the kiss of death

as we betray our Lamb?

O Sacred Head: Streaming Page CXVI’s “Good Friday to Easter” Day 1

As Easter rapidly approaches, I find myself feeling less and less equipped for what is ahead: Jesus on the Cross, bearing my sins. Even less prepared am I for the reality of the Resurrection – new life for old, us the sinners sharing in His glory. But this is the truth, and it can be a kind of misplaced pride which makes us hide from it, saying, “No, Lord, I don’t deserve it.”

Music is a wonderful way to help doubting hearts connect with knowing heads. Page CXVI have prepared another set of beautiful songs to take us through the end of the Easter season, and it’s with great pleasure that I am able to stream the first track of the album here for your enjoyment, along with a poem I have written in response to their song. Happy listening, and may God continue to prepare your hearts for this yearly reminder of His grace in Jesus.

O Sacred Head

This is not me, I declare

when the mirror shows my shame.

I am better, I insist.

Pull up bootstraps; prove self today.

 

Grace defies. Undeserved,

it holds the mirror, yet it swaps

dead image for renewed:

excuses starved, nothing ventured,

yet all gained.

 

O Sacred Head. I

am wounded when I see myself.

Why are You scarred

when I paint over my shame?

“Shriven” – Streaming Page CXVI Day 7

Today is Shrove Tuesday, a day simultaneously associated with pancakes and confession of sin. It is also the day before Lent begins, with Ash Wednesday’s focus on repentance: a day of feasting before the fast begins. Today’s song, the final track from Page CXVI’s “Lent to Maundy Thursday”, is a beautiful reflection on the love and grace of God, a perfect way to prepare our hearts for the beginning of the Lent season. If you have enjoyed what you’ve heard of the album in the past week, it will be released any moment now. (Due to the vagaries of timezones, I am posting this before it hits the 4th of March in the US.) Go to the band’s website for updates on availability.

Here also is my final pre-Lent poem. I am looking forward to sharing more Lent reflections with you over the next forty days. God bless.

 

Shrove Tuesday

Shrivelled, riven, sick with sin
  and grieved with griefs too deep, too dim -
I crawl, I climb, I cannot climb;
     I call, my God, I call.

I love the Lord; He hears my cry
  and drags me, dumb, out from the tomb;
my soul, my soul, destined for death -
     He lifts, my soul, He gives...

Sunken, shriven, sick within
  and barely breath left to breathe in -
my God, my God: I cry, You cry,
     and save my soul from sin.

“Your hearts and minds, prepare them…” – Streaming Page CXVI Day 5

The moment in the Easter narrative that always captures my attention most powerfully is the story of Palm Sunday, of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, hailed as king yet his death from that moment assured. This is the theme of today’s Page CXVI song, the beautiful “This Blessed Day”, accompanied by my new poem for the day. May both help us draw nearer to our servant king this Lent.




Sunday Before Lent
 
Sons of men:
the king is here; he calls,
he calls your crowns and songs –

Daughters, sing:
behold him come; he rides,
he rides adorned in humble praise –

Prepare the way:
lay your crowns, lay your palms,
lay your souls, your soles, your steps toward him –

Behold his crown:
adorned with thorns. Behold his brow,
adorned with shame. Behold him ride –

Hosanna, praise:
the king who rides, who writhes, who prays
forgiveness in His name.

“Fast from… Feast on…” – Streaming Page CXVI Day Four

When I was younger, comfortable in low-evangelical churches where Lent was not observed, the season and its observances always seemed a semi-Catholic imposition. Our school chaplain would wear purple and people gave up eating sugar. That was mostly all I knew about it.

When I came slowly to understand its value, it came with the recognition that you gave up in order to take up. You ate less sugar and prayed more; you gave up time-consuming activities to study the Bible. It was not a matter of fasting for fasting’s sake. It was a matter of fasting from that which was not helpful to feast on that which was.

This is the theme of today’s song from Page CXVI‘s forthcoming “Lent to Maundy Thursday” – a magnificently beautiful song which takes as its theme the kind of sentiment expressed in this meditation by American pastor and writer William Arthur Ward. I hope that this song and my accompanying poem can help you think through what ways you might draw closer to God this Lent and how we can better feast upon Him.


Saturday Before Lent
 
            So wake:
the world’s asleep with sirens and
the truth is whispering through the sleepy day.

            Stand fast:
sweet doom abounds in sinking ground
and quicksand-dreams’ oblivion draws you.

            Hold fast:
your hands are slippery and the night
will try and try to snatch day from your grasp.

            Keep alert:
false comforts and discomforts come
to seize the fallow mind. Pray; stay awake.

            And feast:
the bridegroom’s near; He gives us food
for every need. So find your fill in Him.

“Were you there…?” – Streaming Page CXVI Day Three

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? None of us today can answer “yes”. Yet the truth and power of that moment is never diminished, how much time stretches between us and it.

Today’s track from Page CXVI’s “Lent to Maundy Thursday” combines two old hymns: “Were You There?” and “O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”. May it help us keep preparing our hearts for the truth of Easter.


Friday Before Lent
 
    I was not there;
my heart cannot prepare
for sights like these:
the way Love trembles on its throne,
and mercy sweats blood.

    I was not there,
and in my absence there is guilt:
the nonchalance of one who sits
a safer distance from the fright;
yet Love knows I would have been
as blood-thirsty as the rest.

    I was not there, 
yet Love draws further
than the bounds of space and time,
into my desperate present where
the love of Jesus lives.

    I was not there;
my soul cannot prepare
itself for what it finds:
mercy thick with knowledge, rich
in wisdom before time, grounded, deep
into each present cry.