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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Seasons of the Soul: The Sacrifice (6) - Conclusion

Agony - Geoff Todd, Australia


Shame tears my soul, my body many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproaches, which are free, while I am bound.
Was ever grief like mine?

Now heal your self, Physician; now come down.
Alas! I did so, when I left my crown
And Father’s smile for you, to feel His frown:
Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there does consist
All that salvation, which you now resist;
Your safety in my sickness does subsist:
Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two thieves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robbery suffereth.
Alas! what have I stolen from you? Death.
Was ever grief like mine?

A king my title is, prefixed on high;
Yet by my subjects am condemned to die
A servile death in servile company:
Was ever grief like mine?

They give me vinegar mingled with gall,
But more with malice: yet, when they did call,
With Manna, Angels’ food, I fed them all:
Was ever grief like mine?

They part my garments, and by lot dispose
My coat, the type of love, which once cured those
Who sought for help, never malicious foes:
Was ever grief like mine?

Nay, after death their spite shall further go;
For they will pierce my side, I full well know;
That as sin came, so Sacraments might flow:
Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finishéd.
My woe, man’s weal: and now I bow my head.
Only let others say, when I am dead,
Never was grief like mine.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Season of the Soul: The 23rd Psalm

The beautiful rendering of Psalm 23, above, is by Naomi Teplow who specialises in ketubot and illuminated manuscripts.
The 23d Psalm
The God of love my shepherd is,
And He that does me feed:
While He is mine, and I am His,
What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grass,
Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently pass:
In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, He does convert
And bring my mind in frame:
And all this not for my dessert,
But for His holy name.

Yea, in death's shady black abode
Well may I walk, not fear:
For You are with me; and Your rod
To guide, Your staff to bear.

Nay, you do make me sit and dine,
Ev’n in my enemies' sight:
My head with oil, my cup with wine
Runs over day and night.

Surely Your sweet and wondrous love
Shall measure all my days;
And as it never shall remove,
So neither shall my praise.

Meister Eckhart and the Silent Desert

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Tank at The Nine Mile. Photo by Brigid Walsh.
[Meister Eckhart] puts it in a German sermon:
Therefore, I say, if a man turns away from self and from created things, then – to the extent that you do this – you will attain oneness and blessedness in your soul’s spark, which time and place never touched. This spark is opposed to all creatures; it wants nothing but God naked, just as He is. It is not satisfied with the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost, or all three Persons so far as they preserve their several properties. I declare in truth, this light would not be satisfied with the unity of the whole fertility of the divine nature. In fact I will say still more, which sounds even stranger: I declare in all truth, by the eternal and everlasting truth, that this light is not content with the simple, changeless divine being which neither gives nor takes: rather it seeks to know whence this being comes, it wants to get into its simple Ground, into the Silent Desert, into which no distinction even peeped of Father, Son or Holy Ghost.

This, then, is the goal of our quest: the ultimate Reality, to which we can give no name, which we cannot describe in any image, to which we can ascribe no quality or distinction. We can unite with it and understand it only in darkness and silence, in a kind of unknowing knowing. Yet Eckhart himself uses image to evoke this imageless reality: he calls it the Source, the Root, the Ground, the Silent Desert. This is the desert spoken of by the prophet when he said: "I will lead my bride into the desert, and speak to her heart.” (Hosea 2:14)

Plunging into the abyss of divinity, vanishing into the heart of the Silent Desert, is not something we do only when we are engaged in solitary meditation, in imageless prayer. The abyss, the desert, does not lie merely at the heart of our devotional and religious life; it lies at the heart of our whole life, and especially of our inner life, of that which goes on, often without our being fully aware of it, in the depths of ourselves. Every time we detach from an old, limited love, and open up to a newer, deeper, more universal one, we are taking a step nearer to our goal. It could also be that many people who seem to have rejected religion, who profess scepticism and unbelief, are really treading this same path without knowing it. What they are rejecting is not God, but the limited images of God which can actually, at a certain stage in life, hinder our perception of reality. What they are smashing is not God, but an idol, and their anger is a sacred anger. Once again we find ourselves in the world of the poets, for it is Yeats who gives clearest witness to this iconoclastic wrath in search of the transcendent:

Then my delivered soul herself shall learn
A darker knowledge and in hatred turn
From every thought of God mankind has had.
Thought is a garment and the soul’s a bride
That cannot in that trash and tinsel bide:
Hatred of God may bring the soul to God.

Extracted from The way of paradox: Spiritual life as taught by Meister Eckhart
by Cyprian Smith OSB. London; Darton, Longman and Todd, 1987
[1] Walshe, M. O’C., Meister Eckhardt: Sermons and Treatises. 3 Vols. London, Element Books Ltd., 1979. – Volume 2. Page 105.
[2] Yeats, William Butler, Selected Poetry. Ed. A. Norman Jeffares. London, Macmillan, 1971. Supernatural Songs, v.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Season of the Soul: The Cross

The Cross
What is this strange and uncouth thing?
To make me sigh, and seek, and faint, and die,
Until I had some place, where I might sing,
And serve you; and not only I,
But all my wealth and family might combine
To set your honour up, as our design.

And then when after much delay,
Much wrestling, many a combat, this dear end,
So much desired, is given, to take away
My power to serve you; to unbend
All my abilities, my designs confound,
And lay my threat’nings bleeding on the ground.

One ague still dwells in my bones,
Another in my soul (the memory
What I would do for you, if once my groans
Could be allowed for harmony):
I am in all a weak disabled thing,
Save in the sight thereof, where strength does sting.

Besides, things sort not to my will,
Ev’n when my will does study your renown:
You turnest th’ edge of all things on me still,
Taking me up to throw me down:
So that, ev’n when my hopes seem to be sped,
I am to grief alive, to them as dead.

To have my aim, and yet to be
Further from it than when I bent my bow;
To make my hopes my torture, and the fee
Of all my woes another woe,
Is in the midst of delicates to need,
And ev'n in Paradise to be a weed.

Ah my dear Father, ease my smart!
These contrarieties crush me: these cross actions
Do wind a rope about, and cut my heart:
And yet since these your contradictions
Are properly a cross felt by the Son,
With but four words, my words, Your will be done.
’n when my hopes seem to be sped,
I am to grief alive, to them as dead.

To have my aim, and yet to be
Further from it than when I bent my bow;
To make my hopes my torture, and the fee
Of all my woes another woe,
Is in the midst of delicates to need,
And ev'n in Paradise to be a weed.

Ah my dear Father, ease my smart!
These contrarieties crush me: these cross actions
Do wind a rope about, and cut my heart:
And yet since these your contradictions
Are properly a cross felt by the Son,
With but four words, my words, Your will be done.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Season of the Soul: Gratefulness

Photo of Sunset at The Nine Mile by Denis Wilson
You that have giv'n so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.
See how your beggar works on thee
By art.
He makes your gifts occasion more,
And says, If he in this be crossed,
All you have giv'n him heretofore
Is lost.
But you did reckon, when at first
Your word our hearts and hands did crave,
What it would come to at the worst
To save.
Perpetual knockings at your door,
Tears sullying your transparent rooms,
Gift upon gift, much would have more,
And comes.
This notwithstanding, you still went on,
And did allow us all our noise:
Nay, you have made a sigh and groan
Your joys.
Not that you have not still above
Much better tunes, than groans can make;
But that these country-airs your love
Did take.
Wherefore I cry, and cry again;
And in no quiet can you be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain
Of thee:
Not thankful, when it pleases me;
As if your blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Your praise.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Season of the Soul: Grace


My stock lies dead, and no increase
Does my dull husbandry improve:
O let Your graces without cease
Drop from above!

If still the sun should hide his face,
Your house would but a dungeon prove,
Your works night's captives: O let grace
Drop from above!

The dew doth ev'ry morning fall;
And shall the dew out-strip Your Dove?
The dew, for which grass cannot call,
Drop from above.

Death is still working like a mole,
And digs my grave at each remove:
Let grace work too, and on my soul
Drop from above.

Sin is still hammering my heart
Unto a hardnesse, void of love:
Let suppling grace, to crosse his art,
Drop from above.

O come! for You do know the way:
Or if to me You wilt not move,
Remove me, where I need not say,
Drop from above.

George Herbert

Monday, March 26, 2007

Season of the Soul: The Family

The Passover in the Holy Family by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
What does this noise of thoughts within my heart,
As if they had a part?
What do these loud complaints and pulling fears,
As if there were no rules or ears?

But, Lord, the house and family are thine,
Though some of them repine.
Turn out these wranglers, which defile your seat:
For where you will dwell all is neat.

First Peace and Silence all disputes control,
Then Order plies the soul;
And giving all things their set forms and hours,
Makes of wild woods sweet walks and bowers.

Humble Obedience near the door does stand,
Expecting a command:
Than whom in waiting nothing seems more slow,
Nothing more quick when she does go.

Joys oft are there, and griefs as oft as joys;
But griefs without a noise:
Yet speak they louder than distempered fears.
What is so shrill as silent tears?

This is your house, with these it does abound:
And where these are not found,
Perhaps you com'st sometimes, and for a day;
But not to make a constant stay.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mary: mother, prophet, blessed

Mary: Prophet of the Poor

© by the Reverend Dr. Byron E. Shafer

A sermon preached at Rutgers Presbyterian Churchon December 21, 2003;

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year CScripture Lessons: Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:39-56

Mary the Prophet! It’s not very often that we hear the title “prophet” being ascribed to the mother of Jesus, Christianity’s most celebrated woman. In fact, it was only as recently as three years ago that I for the very first time noticed this title being used for Mary.
Now over the centuries, this remarkable woman has been called many things: “Blessed Virgin,” “Highly Favored One,” “Handmaid of God,” “Mother Mild,” “Friend of God,” “First Disciple,” “Queen of Galilee,” “Mother of God,” even “Co-Creator.”
And, as noted by the Roman Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson, Mary’s image through the centuries has proven to be really quite pliable, “allowing the Christian imagination to create widely different … symbols and theologies in relation to [our varying] spiritual and social needs.” (Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., “Mary of Nazareth: Friend of God and Prophet,” in The Living Pulpit, October-December 2001, p. 12; reprinted from America, 6/17-24/2000.) Indeed, a 1996 book by Fr. George Tavard is entitled The Thousand Faces of the Virgin Mary.
So now it’s our turn to lift up an image—we, the multicultural, multi-denominational Church of the Twenty-first Century. It’s our turn to interpret and honor Mary in a way that is “theologically sound, ecumenically fruitful, spiritually empowering, ethically challenging, and socially liberating.” (Ibid., and Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,” U.S. Catholic, December, 2003, p. 12 [?]. I had access only to a printout of the website version of this article, so the page references for the magazine version are only approximate.)
Well, as the title of my sermon indicates, I am proposing this morning that for our era an interpretation of Mary that needs to be lifted up and emphasized is Mary as “Prophet of the Poor.” (I first encountered this title, in lower case, in Richard S. Ascough’s commentary on Lk. 1:39–55, New Proclamation: Year C, 2000–2001 [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2000], p. 33.)
You see, I believe that Mary is, in this regard, very much like the woman whose namesake she is. For the name “Mary” is the English form of the Hebrew name “Miryam,” “Miriam.” And in the Old Testament, Miriam is not only the sister of the prophet Moses and of the priest Aaron but she is also one who bears the title “prophet” in her own right. And as a prophet she sings a song that celebrates her oppressed people’s deliverance from their bondage to the pharaoh of Egypt (Song of the Sea; Exodus 15:20–21 [and 1–17!]). So the Mary of Nazareth whom we find in today’s Second Lesson singing a song that celebrates the deliverance of her people from oppression and servitude—so Mary of Nazareth is not the first Jewish woman named Miriam to speak such prophetic words as she does.
Luke quite deliberately portrays this Miriam, Miriam of Nazareth, as a Jewish woman—that is, as a descendant of the people of Israel who has “inherited the faith in one living god [that] stem[s] from Abraham and Sarah…, a God who[, as in the days of Moses and the first Miriam,] hears the cries of the poor and frees the enslaved” so that they can enter into a new covenant relationship with God. (Johnson, The Living Pulpit, October–December 2001, p. 16)
And Luke also quite deliberately portrays this second Miriam, Miriam of Nazareth, as one who, like the first Miriam, is desperately poor and living under the brutal regime of a foreign despot—in Mary’s time, the Roman emperor rather than the Egyptian pharaoh. (Ibid.)
So when, at an earlier point in Luke’s first chapter, he narrates the scene now known as “the Annunciation,” in which the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will soon bear a son who is to be the Messiah, Luke describes this Annunciation in such a way as to present it as “nothing less than a prophetic vocation story on the model of the call to Moses at the burning bush.” (Ibid., pp. 16–17)
Thus, Luke describes Mary as having been called, like Moses (and like Miriam), to a prophetic partnership with God in God’s work of liberation. And Luke portrays Mary as beginning to fulfill her prophetic vocation of liberation by proclaiming the words that conclude today’s Second Lesson, the speech that many now call “The Magnificat,” after the first word used in the early church’s translation of this hymn into Latin: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, “My soul glorifies the Lord.” (And this seems a good point to remind you that it is this very song of Mary’s, set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, that will be the featured work sung by our choir at this afternoon’s Candlelight Carol Service.)
Anyway, back to Luke 1! Mary, who is herself pregnant with Jesus, has journeyed quite a considerable distance to visit her much older cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. This scene, known as “the Visitation,” is the longest account in all the New Testament in which women hold center stage. And at this scene’s conclusion, Mary utters her Magnificat, the longest set of words spoken by a woman in the entire New Testament.
And Mary, like the prophets Miriam, Moses, and Deborah before her (Exod 15; Judg 4:4; 5), sings a hymn of triumphant praise: “…my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” who has looked with favor on my lowliness. (Luke 1:47–48) Now the Greek word for “lowliness” is not referring here to Mary’s spiritual humility, although she undoubtedly possessed such humility. No, the “lowliness” that has attracted to Mary God’s favor is that of her political and social humiliation, the lowliness she has been enduring both as an impoverished peasant subject to constant exploitation by a brutal occupying army and as a young woman subject to constant exploitation by a harsh and unrelenting patriarchal system.
But God’s favor and doing of great things for Mary is just the beginning of a process that will come to assume far larger scope. For, as Mary the prophet herself proclaims in the next part of her song, God’s favor and doing of great things will come to be shown to all those who, like Mary, are “lowly.” Yes, God will indeed scatter the proud. God will bring down the powerful and exalt all the humiliated. God will fill the hungry and send the rich away empty. (vss. 51–53)
This great prophetic proclamation by Mary is her “revolutionary song of salvation,” and it “places Mary in solidarity with the project of the coming reign of God whose intent is to heal, redeem, and liberate.” (Johnson, The Living Pulpit, p. 17)
Mary makes it known that “[t]he approaching reign of God will disturb the order of the world run by the hard of heart, the oppressor. Through God’s action, the social hierarchy of wealth and poverty, power and subjugation, is to be turned upside down. All will be well because God’s mercy, pledged in covenant love, is faithful through every generation.” Thus, in Luke, Mary becomes “the spokeswoman for God’s redemptive justice.… Mary stands as a prophet of the coming age.” And every person in need is able to hear in Mary’s song a blessing: “[t]he battered woman, the single parent without resources, those without food, the homeless family, the young abandoned to their own devices, the old who are discarded—all who are subjected to social contempt are encompassed in the hope Mary proclaims.” (Johnson, U.S. Catholic, pp. 14–15[?])
It was the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stated, before he was killed by the Nazis, “The song of Mary is the oldest Advent hymn. It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings.… This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind. These are the tones of the women prophets of the Old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s mouth.” So spoke Bonhoeffer (as quoted in Johnson, U.S. Catholic, p. 13[?]).
And more recently, many Latin American theologians have also called to our attention the hope for God’s favor and deliverance that this song, from the lips of a Galilean Jewish peasant prophet, stirs in the hearts of many of today’s poor and lowly. Indeed, during one period of time in the 1980s, the government of Guatemala found the stirrings raised by Mary’s proclamation of God’s preferential love for the poor to be so dangerous and revolutionary that that government actually banned any public recitation of Mary’s words! (Johnson, U.S. Catholic, p. 15[?])
Yes, here in the Magnificat, it is a defiant Mary, bearing the Messiah, who proclaims God’s outrage over the humiliation of the poor and who sings of the historical reversal that her pregnancy embodies—the reversal that it is to be from the womb of one whom the rich and the powerful have made “lowly” that the Sovereign Lord of the Universe will be born.
With prophetic authority, Mary sings this hymn of liberating praise and hope on behalf of all those in the world who are downtrodden. “Pregnant with new life, she cries out for [the] transformation of the old order…” (Johnson, U.S. Catholic, p. 17[?])
Well, we here in America have not yet banned the reading of Mary’s Magnificat. Nonetheless we have pretty effectively neutralized her words’ revolutionary impact. Oh, we of course hear them, but since they are coming from the mouth of one we presume to have been “such a sweet young thing,” we easily conclude that Mary must not really have meant what she was saying! In this way, we are able to shrug off the judgment her words proclaim against persons so rich and powerful as the likes of most of us.
I was reminded quite forcefully about this “tin ear” of ours just last Friday as I was reading Bob Herbert’s column on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times (12/19/03, p. A39). Herbert says, “Americans are the best-informed people in the history of the world. But we are experts at distancing ourselves from any real unpleasantness. Most of us behave as though we bear no personal responsibility for the deep human suffering all around us, and no obligation to try and alleviate it.” “A surge in the Dow is big news. Surges in hunger and homelessness are not.” Yet the truth is that New York City has more homeless persons right now than at any time since the Great Depression. And on the national scale, reliable data for the year 2001, the most recent year for which a full set of data is available—reliable data for 2001 show a worsening in all of the following eight measures of our country’s social health: children in poverty, child abuse, average weekly earnings, affordable housing, health insurance coverage, food stamp coverage, the gap between rich and poor, and out-of-pocket health costs for those over 65. And does any of us really doubt that each and every one of these eight measures of our country’s social health has worsened even more since December, 2001?
Well, Mary’s prophetic song is meant to remind all who would follow the Messiah that to us, as we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, there comes, besides the tidings of great joy, additional news of awesome responsibility, of the responsibility to accomplish on earth the justice that Jesus did not complete during his all-too-brief life, the justice that we his followers are therefore called upon to do.
Mary the Prophet proclaims that through the one to be born from her womb God sets in motion the process of delivering the world’s poor from systemic injustice, the process which, each Christmas, we followers of the Messiah are commanded to renew and fulfill.
So this morning, and then again this afternoon when we will hear Mary’s Magnificat set to the sublime beauty of Bach’s music, let us not shrug off this awesome truth—that Mary’s prophetic words are proclaiming things that should cause the likes of most of us to tremble—if not in fear then in exhaustion! For Mary the Prophet is summoning us to join with God in giving birth to radical reversals and revolutionary change.
Let us pray:
O God, like Mary, our souls do magnify and glorify You, and, with Mary, we pray that You will transform us and change the ways of our lives through the power of the hope that is renewed in us each Christmas. This we pray in the name of Mary’s child, Jesus, the one whose revolutionary justice is waiting to be born anew through us. Amen.

Season of the Soul: Annunciation, Lady Day, 25 March. Donne

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Tamey, frail body, abstain to-day ; to-day
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur ; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away;
She sees Him nothing, twice at once, who's all;
She sees a cedar plant itself, and fall;
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive, yet dead ;
She sees at once the Virgin Mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she's seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty, and at scarce fifteen;
At once a son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriell gives Christ to her, He her to John ;
Not fully a mother, she's in orbity ;
At once receiver and the legacy.
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
Th' abridgement of Christ's story, which makes one—
As in plain maps, the furthest west is east—
Of th' angels Ave, and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God's Court of Faculties,
Deals, in sometimes, and seldom joining these.
As by the self-fix'd Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where th'other is, and which we say
—Because it strays not far—doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to him, we know,
And stand firm, if we by her motion go.
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar, doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud ; to one end both.
This Church by letting those days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one;
Or 'twas in Him the same humility,
That He would be a man, and leave to be;
Or as creation He hath made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating spouse would join in one
Manhood's extremes; He shall come, He is gone ;
Or as though one blood drop, which thence did fall,
Accepted, would have served,
He yet shed all,
So though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords.
This treasure then, in gross, my soul, uplay,

Season of the Soul: Annunciation, Lady Day, 25 March. Merton

Stained glass window: St Peter's Anglican Church, Glenelg, SA
Thomas Merton - Written in 1957

Ashes of paper, ashes of a world
Wandering, when fire is done:
We argue with the drops of rain!
Until One comes Who walks unseen
Even in elements we have destroyed.
Deeper than any nerve
He enters flesh and bone.
Planting His truth, He puts our substance on.
Air, earth, and rain
Rework the frame that fire has ruined.
What was dead is waiting for His Flame.
Sparks of His Spirit spend their seeds, and hide
To grow like irises, born before summertime.
These blue things bud in Israel.

The girl prays by the bare wall
Between the lamp and the chair.
(Framed with an angel in our galleries
She has a richer painted room, sometimes a crown.
Yet seven pillars of obscurity
Build her to Wisdom's house, and Ark, and Tower.
She is the Secret of another Testament She owns their manna in her jar.)

Fifteen years old - The flowers printed on her dress
Cease moving in the middle of her prayer
When God, Who sends the messenger,
Meets His messenger in her Heart.
Her answer, between breath and breath,
Wrings from her innocence our Sacrament!
In her white body God becomes our Bread.

It is her tenderness
Heats the dead world like David on his bed.
Times that were too soon criminal
And never wanted to be normal
Evade the beast that has pursued
You, me and Adam out of Eden's wood.
Suddenly we find ourselves assembled
Cured and recollected under several green trees.

Her prudence wrestled with the Dove
To hide us in His cloud of steel and silver:
These are the mysteries of her Son.
And here my heart, a purchased outlaw,
Prays in her possession
Until her Jesus makes my heart
Smile like a flower in her blameless hand.

Season of the Soul: Annunciation, Lady Day, 25 March.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.

He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
Luke Chapter1:46-56

Season of the Soul: Faith

Stained glass window: St Peter's Anglican Church, Glenelg, SA

Lord, how could you so much appease
Your wrath for sin as, when man's sight was dim,
And could see little, to regard his ease,
And bring by Faith all things to him?

Hungry I was, and had no meat:
I did conceit a most delicious feast;
I had it straight, and did as truly eat,
As ever did a welcome guest.

There is rare outlandish root,
Which when I could not get, I thought it here:
That apprehension cur'd so well my foot,
That I can walk to heav'n well near.

I owed thousands and much more:
I did believe that I did nothing owe,
And liv'd accordingly; my creditor
Believes so too, and lets me go.

Faith makes me any thing, or all
That I believe is in the sacred story:
And where sin places me in Adam's fall,
Faith sets me higher in his glory.

If I go lower in the book,
What can be lower than the common manger?
Faith puts me there with him, who sweetly took
Our flesh and frailty, death and danger.

If bliss had lien in art or strength,
None but the wise or strong had gained it:
Where now by Faith all arms are of a length;
One size does all conditions fit.

A peasant may believe as much
As a great Clerk, and reach the highest stature.
Thus do you make proud knowledge bend & crouch,
While grace fills up uneven nature.

When creatures had no real light
Inherent in them, you did make the sun
Impute a luster, and allow them bright;
And in this show, what Christ has done.

That which before was darkened clean
With bushy groves, pricking the looker's eye,
Vanished away, when Faith did change the scene:
And then appeared a glorious sky.

What though my body run to dust?
Faith cleaves unto it, counting ev'ry grain
With an exact and most particular trust,
Reserving all for flesh again.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Season of the Soul: Lent 5

Lenten Theme:
What is a fool for Christ
Fool Prayer

by Beth McLean
inspired by the Ash Wednesday Liturgy
from A Prayer Book for Australia.

Lord, make me a ‘fool’ for you.
Creator, sustainer, nurturer,

show me how to care for the world in which I live,
how to encourage others.
How to be brave enough to stand up for what is needed …
give me the courage to be foolish enough,
passionate enough, excited enough
to care and show that care by action.
Transform me.
Isaiah 43: 16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:3-14
John 12:1-8

To-day, To the Desert highlights the reading from Isaiah. In 2007, it is dear to Miss Eagle's heart. Each New Year, dear Reader, your Miss E seeks the Lord to provide her with a portion of Scripture to meditate on through the year. In this year of our Lord, 2007, Miss E was given in January this very passage of Isaiah. Over at Journey with Jesus, David Clendenin has taken this war passage from Isaiah to reflect on the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war which has blazed since 19 March 2003. David has given us the lives of four Christians on which to think in this context.

Seasons of the Soul: The Sacrifice (5)

" The Mocking of Jesus" 2005 - Sandow Birk

They bow their knees to me, and cry, Hail king:
What ever scoffs & scornfulness can bring,
I am the floor, the sink, where they it fling:
Was ever grief like mine?

Yet since man's scepters are as frail as reeds,
And thorny all their crowns, blood their weeds;
I, who am Truth, turn into truth their deeds:
Was ever grief like mine?

The soldiers also spit upon that face,
Which Angels did desire to have the grace,
And Prophets, once to see, but found no place:
Was ever grief like mine?

Thus trimmed, forth they bring me to the rout,
Who Crucify him, cry with one strong shout.
God holds his peace at man, and man cries out:
Was ever grief like mine?

They lead me in once more, and putting then
Mine own clothes on, they lead me out again.
Whom devils fly, thus is he tossed of men:
Was ever grief like mine?

And now weary of sport, glad to engross
All spite in one, counting my life their loss,
They carry me to my most bitter cross:
Was ever grief like mine?

O all you who pass by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?

Lo, here I hang, charged with a world of sin,
The great world o' th' two; for that came in
By words, but this by sorrow I must win:
Was ever grief like mine?

Such sorrow as, if sinful man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel.
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:
Was ever grief like mine?

But, O my God, my God! why leav'st thou me,
The son, in whom you do delight to be?
My God, my God ------
Never was grief like mine.
George Herbert

Friday, March 23, 2007


Photo by John Mitchell
And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Isaiah 58:11 / KJV

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Season of the Soul: Discipline


Throw away your rod,
Throw away your wrath:
O my God,
Take the gentle path.

For my heart’s desire
Unto yours is bent:
I aspire
To a full consent.

Not a word or look
I affect to own,
But by book,
And your book alone.

Though I fail, I weep:
Though I halt in pace,
Yet I creep
To the throne of grace.

Then let wrath remove;
Love will do the deed:
For with love
Stony hearts will bleed.

Love is swift of foot;
Love's a man of war,
And can shoot,
And can hit from far.

Who can 'scape his bow?
That which wrought on thee,
Brought you low,
Needs must work on me.

Throw away your rod;
Though man frailties hath,
You are God:
Throw away your wrath.

George Herbert

Season of the Soul: Sighs and Groans

Tyndale Bible
Sighs and Groans
O do not use me
After my sins! look not on my dessert,
But on your glory! Then you will reform
And not refuse me: for you only art
The mighty God, but I a silly worm;
O do not bruise me!

O do not urge me!
For what account can your ill steward make?
I have abused your stock, destroyed your woods,
Sucked all your storehouses: my head did ache,
Till it found out how to consume your goods:
O do not scourge me!

O do not blind me!
I have deserved that an Egyptian night
Should thicken all my powers; because my lust
Has still sewed fig-leaves to exclude your light:
But I am frailty, and already dust;
O do not grind me!

O do not fill me
With the turned vial of your bitter wrath!
For you have other vessels full of blood,
A part whereof my Saviour emptied hath,
Even unto death: since he died for my good,
O do not kill me!

But O reprieve me!
For you have life and death at your command;
You are both Judge and Saviour, feast and rod,
Cordial and Corrosive: put not your hand
Into the bitter box; but O my God,
My God, relieve me!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Season of the Soul: Assurance

O spiteful bitter thought!
Bitterly spiteful thought! Could you invent
So high a torture: Is such poison bought?
Doubtless, but in the way of punishment.
When wit contrives to meet with thee,
No such rank poison can there be.

You said but even now,
That all was not so fair, as I conceived,
Betwixt my God and me; that I allow
And coin large hopes, but that I was deceived:
Either the league was broke, or near it;
And, that I had great cause to fear it.

And what to this? what more
Could poison, if it had a tongue, express?
What is your aim? would you unlock the door
To cold despairs, and gnawing pensiveness?
Would you raise devils? I see, I know,
I writ your purpose long ago.

But I will to my Father,
Who heard you say it. O most gracious Lord,
If all the hope and comfort that I gather,
Were from my self, I had not half a word,
Not half a letter to oppose
What is objected by my foes.

But you are my dessert:
And in this league, which now my foes invade,
You are not only to perform your part,
But also mine; as when the league was made
You did at once your self indite,
And hold my hand, while I did write.

Wherefore if you can fail,
Then can your truth and I: but while rocks stand,
And rivers stir, you can not shrink or quail:
Yea, when both rocks and all things shall disband,
Then shall you be my rock and tower,
And make their ruin praise your power.

Now foolish thought go on,
Spin out your thread, and make thereof a coat
To hide your shame: for you have cast a bone
Which boomerangs, and will not down your throat:
What for itself love once began,
Now love and truth will end in man.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Serenity in all things

Miss Eagle was not aware until she visited this site that there was more to the Serenity Prayer than the above words.
Here is the prayer in full:
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

Season of the Soul: Prayer (II)

Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary
Prayer (II)
Of what an easy quick access,
My blessed Lord, you are! how suddenly
May our requests your ear invade!
To show that state dislikes not easiness,
If I but lift mine eyes, my suit is made:
You can no more not hear, than you can die.

Of what supreme almighty power
Is your great arm, which spans the east and west,
And tacks the center to the sphere!
By it do all things live their measured hour:
We cannot ask the thing, which is not there,
Blaming the shallowness of our request.

Of what unmeasureable love
Are you possessed, who, when you could not die,
Were glad to take our flesh and curse,
And for our sakes in person sin reprove,
That by destroying that which tied your purse,
You might make way for liberality!

Since then these three wait on your throne,
Ease, Power, and Love; I value prayer so,
That were I to leave all but one,
Wealth, fame, endowments, virtues, all should go;
I and dear prayer would together dwell,
And quickly gain, for each inch lost, an

Season of the Soul: Content

Peace muttering thoughts, and do not grudge to keep
Within the walls of your own breast:
Who cannot on his own bed sweetly sleep,
Can on another's hardly rest.

Gad not abroad at ev'ry quest and call
Of an untrainéd hope or passion.
To court each place or fortune that does fall,
Is wantonness in contemplation.

Mark how the fire in flints does quiet lie,
Content and warm t' it self alone:
But when it would appear to other's eye,
Without a knock it never shone.

Give me the pliant mind, whose gentle measure
Complies and suits with all estates;
Which can let loose to a crown, and yet with pleasure
Take up within a cloister's gates.

This soul does span the world, and hang content
From either pole unto the center:
Wherein each room of the well-furnished tent
He lies warm, and without adventure.

The brags of life are but a nine days wonder;
And after death the fumes that spring
From private bodies make as big a thunder,
As those which rise for a huge King.

Only your Chronicle is lost; and yet
Better by worms be all once spent,
Than to have hellish moths still gnaw and fret
Your name in books, which may not rent:

When all your deeds, whose brunt you feel alone,
Are chewed by others pens and tongue;
And as their wit is, their digestion,
Your nourished fame is weak or strong.

Then cease discoursing soul, till your own ground,
Do not your self or friends importune.
He that by seeking has himself once found,
Has ever found a happy fortune.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Season of the Soul: The Sinner


Lord, how I am all sickness, when I seek
What I have treasured in my memory!
Since, if my soul make even with the week,
Each seventh note by right is due to thee.
I find there quarries of piled vanities,
But shreds of holiness, that dare not venture
To show their face, since cross to your decrees:
There the circumference earth is, heaven the center.
In so much dregs the quintessence is small:
The spirit and good extract of my heart
Comes to about the many hundred part.
Yet Lord restore yours image, hear my call:
And though my hard heart scarce to you can groan,
Remember that you once did write on stone.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Season of the Soul: Lent 4

Lenten Theme:
What is a fool for Christ

Fool Prayer
by Beth McLean
inspired by the Ash Wednesday Liturgy
from A Prayer Book for Australia.

Lord, make me a ‘fool’ for you.
Lord of mercy and compassion, help me to see as you see.
Give me courage to stand up for justice,
to support those who are oppressed, unwanted, despised.
Help me to find you in all I meet,
let me be not afraid of derision or scorn
for your sake and for the sake of your children.
Transform me.

Joshua 5:2-12
Psalm 32
2 Corintians 5:16-21
Luke 15:11-32

To-day's reading of the Good News of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
tells the parable (story used by Jesus to teach people) of the Prodigal Son.

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry."Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

For those interested in comparative religious studies or inter-faith dialogue, this site is interesting for its discussion of the Prodigal Son in the Christian tradition and in the Buddhist tradition. Very interesting!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Season of the Soul: The Sacrifice (4)

Behold, they spit on me in scornful wise,
Who by my spittle gave the blind man eyes,
Leaving his blindness to my enemies:
Was ever grief like mine?

My face they cover, thought it be divine.
As Moses face was veiled, so is mine,
Lest on their double-dark souls either shine:
Was ever grief like mine?

Servants and cast offs mock me; they are witty:
Now prophesy who strikes thee, is their ditty.
So they in me deny themselves all pity:
Was ever grief like mine?

And now I am delivered unto death,
Which each one calls for so with utmost breath,
That he before me well nigh suffereth:
Was ever grief like mine?

Weep not, dear friends, since I for both have wept
When all my tears were blood, the while you slept:
Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept:
Was ever grief like mine?

The soldiers lead me to the Common Hall;
There they deride me, they abuse me all:
Yet for twelve heavenly legions I could call:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then with a scarlet robe they me array;
Which shows my blood to be the only way
And cordial left to repair man's decay:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then on my head a crown of thorns I wear:
For these are all the grapes Zion does bear,
Though I my vine planted and watered there:
Was ever grief like mine?

So sits the earth’s great curse in Adam’s fall
Upon my head: so I remove it all
From th’ earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall:
Was ever grief like mine?

Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from thence all store
Of heavenly blessings issue evermore:
Was ever grief like mine?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Season of the Soul: Even-Song

Sunset at The Nine Mile photographed by Brigid Walsh
Blest be the God of love,
Who gave us eyes, and light, and power this day,
Both to be busy, and to play.
But much more blest be God above,
Who gave me sight alone,
Which to himself he did deny:
For when he sees my ways, I die:
But I have got his son, and he has none.

What have I brought you home
For this your love? have I discharged the debt,
Which this day's favor did beget?
I ran; but all I brought, was foam.
Your diet, care, and cost
Do end in bubbles, balls of wind;
Of wind to you whom I have crossed,
But balls of wild-fire to my troubled mind.

Yet still you have gone on,
And now with darkness closest weary eyes,
Saying to man, "It does suffice:
Henceforth repose; your work is done."
Thus in your ebony box
You do enclose us, till the day
Put our amendment in our way,
And give new wheels to our disordered clocks.

I muse, which shows more love,
The day or night: that is the gale, this th' harbor;
That is the walk, and this the arbor;
Or that the garden, this the grove.
My God, you are all love.
Not one poor minute 'scapes your breast,
But brings a favor from above;
And in this love, more than in bed, I rest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Season of the Soul: Justice


I cannot make sense of your ways.
Lord, you did make me, yet you woundest me;
Lord, you do wound me, yet you do relieve me:
Lord, you relievest, yet I die by thee:
Lord, you do kill me, yet you do reprieve me.

But when I mark my life and praise,
Your justice me most fitly pays:

For, I do praise you, yet I praise you not:
My prayers mean you, yet my prayers stray:
I would do well, yet sin the hand has got:
My soul does love you, yet It loves delay.
I cannot value these my ways.

Season of the Soul: Lent 3 - Mi-careme

Miss Eagle had never heard of Mi-careme until to-night when she was reading a post on The Old Foodie's blog. And what a wonderful post for the third week of Lent. Mi-careme, where the tradition has been practised or upheld, marks the midway point in Lent when people are half-way through the Lenten fast.

For one night there is a reprieve or a hiatus when people enjoy themselves. In its modern form, Mi-careme has taken on a carnival atmosphere, masks and all.

Season of the Soul: Nature

Photo by Denis Wilson of The Nature of Robertson

Full of rebellion, I would die
Or fight, or travel, or deny
That you ought to do with me.
O tame my heart;
It is your highest art
To captivate strong holds to thee.

If you shall let this venom lurk,
And in suggestions fume and work,
My soul will turn to bubbles straight,
And then by kind
Vanish into a wind,
Making your workmanship deceit.

O smooth my rugged heart, and there
Engrave your rev'rend Law and fear;
Or make a new one, since the old
Is sapless grown,
And a much fitter stone
To hide my dust, than you to hold

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Season of the Soul: The Pearl

The Hope Pearl, a 450-carat natural pearl that was owned by nineteenth-century gem collector Henry Phillip Hope. Loaned by Christie's. (Chip Clark / Smithsonian) Click image to enlarge.

The Pearl.

Matthew 13: 45

I know the ways of Learning; both the head
And pipes that feed the press, and make it run;
What reason has from nature borrowed,
Or of it self, like a good housewife, spun
In laws and policy; what the stars conspire,
What willing nature speaks, what forced by fire;
Both th' old discoveries, and the new-found seas,
The stock and surplus, cause and history:
All these stand open, or I have the keys:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of Honor, what maintains
The quick returns of courtesy and wit:
In vies of favors whether party gains,
When glory swells the heart, and molding it
To all expressions both of hand and eye,
Which on the world a true-love-knot may tie,
And bear the bundle, wheresoe'er it goes:
How many drams of spirit there must be
To sell my life unto my friends or foes:
Yet I love thee.

I know the ways of Pleasure, the sweet strains,
The lullings and the relishes of it;
The propositions of hot blood and brains;
What mirth and music mean; what love and wit
Have done these twenty hundred years, and more:
I know the projects of unbridled store:
My stuff is flesh, not brass; my senses live,
And grumble oft, that they have more in me
Than he that curbs them, being but one to five:
Yet I love thee.

I know all these, and have them in my hand:
Therefore not sealéd, but with open eyes
I fly to you, and fully understand
Both the main sale, and the commodities;
And at what rate and price I have your love;
With all the circumstances that may move:
Yet through these labyrinths, not my groveling wit,
But your silk twist let down from heaven to me,
Did both conduct and teach me, how by it
To climb to thee.

George Herbert

Monday, March 12, 2007

Season of the Soul: An Offering

An Offering
Come, bring your gift. If blessings were as slow
As men's returns, what would become of fools?
What have you there? a heart? but is it pure?
Search well and see; for hearts have many holes.
Yet one pure heart is nothing to bestow:
In Christ two natures met to be your cure.

O that within us hearts had propagation,
Since many gifts do challenge many hearts!
Yet one, if good, may title to a number;
And single things grow fruitful by desserts.
In public judgments one may be a nation,
And fence a plague, while others sleep and slumber.

But all I fear is lest your heart displease,
As neither good, nor one: so oft divisions
Your lusts have made, and not your lusts alone;
Your passions also have their set partitions.
These parcel out your heart: recover these,
And you may offer many gifts in one.

There is a balsam, or indeed a blood,
Dropping from heaven, which does both cleanse and close
All sorts of wounds; of such strange force it is.
Seek out this All-heal, and seek no repose,
Until you find and use it to your good:
Then bring your gift, and let your hymn be this;

Since my sadness
Into gladness
Lord you do convert,
O accept
What you have kept,
As your due dessert.

Had I many,
Had I any,
(For this heart is none)
All were thine
And none of mine:
Surely yours alone.

Yet your favor
May give savor
To this poor oblation;
And it raise
To be your praise,
And be my salvation.

George Herbert

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Season of the Soul: Lent 3

Lenten Theme:
What is a fool for Christ
Fool Prayer

by Beth McLean
inspired by the Ash Wednesday Liturgy
from A Prayer Book for Australia.
Lord, make me a ‘fool’ for you.
Jesus, who has shown us how to really forgive,
who has travelled to death and back for our sake.
I pray that you will show me
how to forgive wholeheartedly and unreservedly.
How to love unconditionally.
How to show your love to others.
Transform me.

Isaiah 55:1-9
Psalm 63:1-9
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:31-35

To-day's reading of the Good News of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ tells of the Jesus sending a message to Herod, his prophetic visit to Jerusalem, and his brooding over Jerusalem.

On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.”

And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’

Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say,

‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”(NKJV)

The picture of the broody hen comes from Irenic Thoughts. For a commentary on to-day's gospel passage go to this post by Rev Frank Logue of King of Peace Episcopal Church, Kingsland, Georgia, USA.

The Name above all other names


Jesu is in my heart, his sacred name
Is deeply carvéd there: but th' other week
A great affliction broke the little frame,
Even all to pieces: which I went to seek:
And first I found the corner, where was J,
After, where ES, and next where U was 'graved,
When I had got these parcels, instantly
I sat me down to spell them, and perceived
That to my broken heart he was I ease you,
And to the whole is JESU.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tributes for Kings: Kevin Rolly's The Stations of the Cross

Station 7 - Jesus Falls for the Second Time - Kevin Rolly

The Stations of the Cross is a very old Christian tradition. It is a meditative practice on the journey of Jesus to the Cross. Traditionally, it comprises 14 stations or places of reflection ending with the burial of Jesus in the borrowed tomb. Some modern renditions include a new Station 15 - The Resurrection.
Miss Eagle has discovered a modern reworking of The Stations: a magnificent, creative, poetic, reflective and challenging reworking. It is the work of Kevin Rolly and was performed at Asbury Theological Seminary, Kentucky, USA. Please take time for a reflective journey with Kevin Rolly and his collaborators. In the words of Kevin Rolly:
The Stations of the Cross traditionally end with the Burial in the Tomb.
We are left to contemplate the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made and to wait in expectation of the resurrection.
This moment however is rarely depicted in art.
It is my contention that Good Friday and the Resurrection are inextricably woven together,
but in modern culture we tend to emphasize one over the other.
To dwell only in the Resurrection is to neglect the battle that was won for the sake of love.
I argue that the Resurrection loses it's deeper meaning without the believers' conscious passage through the walk to the cross and to truly know the cost of that victory.
In culture we end up with only rainbows and light which ignores the very real darkness.
We end up with kitsch.
To dwell only in Good Friday slowly leads us to feel the burden of guilt already paid for by the cross.
We are left as the the disciples were on that day...depressed and never knowing the victory.
Life is both light and dark.
But in the end it is the victory in which we are left having known the journey there.
That is the true Way of the Cross.