Sunday of the Passion "my heart within me is desolate"
Lamentation of the Virgin by the Rohan Master (Right)
The background shimmers, undulating stars and wings evoking the unseen.
The subject is Johnís accusing gaze toward the unresponsive Father.Instead of meeting Johnís agony, God looks upon the son. The Fatherís torso only partially emerges from the sphere of heaven, his royal orb safely clasped in his left hand, his right hand shading his eyes to better see from so far away. Or, perhaps, the Fatherís gesture expresses self-doubt.
However, the mother, both limp and agitated dives toward her son while Johnís strong arms inhibit her from touching the bloated, distorted body in full rigor mortis. Her skin is as pale as her sonís, her right hand clenched as Jesusí hand is clenched, as if she endeavors to draw his death into her own body that he might live.
attributed to Daddi, detail (Mary Magdalene) ca,1335, National Gallery of Art
Let me never outlive my love for thee
My spirit is overwhelmed within me: my heart within me is desolate.
Antiphon at Lauds, Good Friday
What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend, for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end? Oh, make me thine forever! And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for thee.
Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) translated James Waddell Alexander (stanza four of Hymn 168, O Sacred Head Sore Wounded)
O who will give me tears? Come all ye springs,
Dwell in my head and eyes: come clouds, and rain:
My grief hath need of all the watíry things,
That nature hath produced.Let evíry vein
Suck up a river to supply mine eyes,
My weary weeping eyes too dry for me,
Unless they get new conduits, new supplies
To bear them out, and with my state agree.
What are two shallow fords, two little sprouts
Of a less world? the greater is but small,
A narrow cupboard for my griefs and doubts,
Which want provision in the midst of all.
Verses, ye are too fine a thing, too wise
For my rough sorrows: cease, be dumb and mute,
Give up your feet and running to mine eyes,
And keep your measures for some loverís lute,
Whose grief allows him music and a rhyme:
For mine excludes both measure, tune, and time.
Alas, my God!
-George Herbert (1593-1633)
Pelican feeding her young, (right) Aberdeen Beastiary
I take the shoes from my feet, I put off all that is finite
and tread on a land without borders.
Burst forth, all the dark well-springs of my life!
Come flying all my nights, dark birds of guilt,
descend upon me with outstretched wings:
I will go into deepest sorrow that I may find my God.
For sorrow is great in the world, mighty and without end.
It has encompassed that against which heaven and earth
are shattered, it has endured the weight of infinite love.
Holy God, Holy Strength, Holy Immortal.
Thou God under my sin, thou God under my weakness,
Thou God under my death.
I lay my lips upon thy wounds Ė Lord, I lay my soul
upon thy cross.
-Gertrude von Le Fort (1876-1971)
The Last Word
Glory be to You, who laid your Cross as a bridge over death, that souls might pass over it from the dwelling of the dead to the dwelling of life!
-Ephraem the Syrian (ca306-373)
Giotto, detail (lamentation)
Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
-Good Friday Liturgy, BCP
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.