King: I cannot come to You however I choose
yet all I am is a bundle
hurriedly put together,
no sack cloth, no ashes,
hair still mussed from slumber,
feet not yet expecting to walk…
Can I come to You as a stowaway,
scarcely awake, found among cargo,
hiding like Jonah while the waves ravage?
I bring no grand promise,
only the startled eyes of one caught unawares
and the knowledge that, when before kings, I must bow,
and, when cast in oceans, to swim.
Though forty days are hardly enough
for the numbness of limbs to distribute itself
and for fingers to learn, once again, how to pray –
I come to you, King, in dishevelled dismay
and declare my all dross at Your feet.
If my Amen burns faint now
or my wick dwindles, short,
may You be my prayer’s substance,
Ash marks the face where the image was lost;
dust marks the skin once shaped from it.
Ash marks the doors to these bodies of dirt;
grace marks the scars skinned upon it.
Death marks the flesh once inspired by Life;
Life pays the cost to respire it.
Steps mark the knees bent upon them in prayer;
hope marks the soul there repining.
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.
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.
“It’s true: the Author of life lay dead,
Lay three days inside death’s tomb,
The Righteous and the Holy One
Made Himself an offering to
Ignorant, unrighteous men
Who knew not what they did.
It’s true, for we are witnesses;
We saw Him breathe and saw Him die
And saw Him rise again and eat
Fish and bread among us, He
Who made the fish swim, made grain grow
And lay dead on a tree.
Look: the one who makes bones live
And opens blinded eyes has made
The lame man walk along with us,
And you too must receive
The gift of faith, the gift of life,
The gift of utter joy.”
The lame man clinging onto them
Saw the stares of men who knew
Everything yet nothing too.
“Times of refreshing may come to you,”
Peter said, the tail’s sting
Hanging in the wind:
For everything was done for them
And nothing they could give,
Every debt was paid and all
Faith was theirs to take,
Yet some there were who still would not
Die that they might live.
“Let the house of Israel know!”
He cried, and cut them to the heart
Who, guilt of Adam in their bones,
Had hammered in the nails.
“What should we do?” they cried in fear,
Seeing their hands at the cross,
Their sins like thieves at Jesus’ side,
Their voices raised to crucify.
“Repent,” he told them, “and believe.”
For he knew well the truth he spoke,
The broken one whom roosters heard,
Now called to feed His sheep.
Even as a picture graven or painted is but a dead representation of the thing itself, and is without life, or any manner of moving; so be the works of all unfaithful persons before God. They do appear to be lively works, and indeed they be but dead, not availing to the eternal life.
(Thomas Cranmer, Homily of Good Works Annexed Unto Faith)
Our hearts, contrite, turn upwards in faint faith.
Though fallen far from grace, we now return,
As ash to ash and dust into the urn;
We lift our prayers in hope of turning wrath
And walk again this old, well-trodden path.
Your men and women, strong through every turn –
Of faith that purifies still as it burns –
Remind us of Your long-forgotten truth:
That in our hearts we cannot reach Your heights
Nor hope to find You through sheer dint of will
Can only fabricate our own despair;
And yet You call the humble and contrite,
To seek Your mercy while it lingers still,
And offer up our broken, common prayer.