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Reflection - Holy Week - DL

Reflection for Holy Week  - All Saints, Denmead

by Revd David Lindsay

In a ‘Thought for the Day’ talk, given soon after the government’s imposition of Covid19 restrictions, the Scottish hymn-writer and broadcaster, John Bell, spoke about two gifts which the current crisis affords: the gift of time, and the gift of the self. He suggested that, with busy distractions temporarily having ceased, we might all take time to look deeper into ourselves, and maybe, just maybe, begin to ‘love into life all the vulnerable and broken aspects of ourselves that have been long neglected.’

Someone who knew how to look at himself with unflinching honesty was the seventeenth-century priest and poet, George Herbert. This year, Anne and I have used for our Lent reading ‘My Sour Sweet Days’, a collection of Herbert’s poems selected by Canon Mark Oakley,  who adds a helpful commentary to each poem. Again and again, Herbert recognises the many ways in which he falls short; but he repeatedly insists that God is no remote and judgmental tyrant, but a loving friend who takes him smiling by the hand. 

Holy Week is a time to bewail our own – and the world’s – brokenness, a theme which will surely gain fresh urgency this year. But it is also a time to recognise that, as Paul reminds us in Romans, nothing can separate us from the love of God. And Easter does not wipe away the Cross as though it had never been; it proclaims the Cross for what it truly is, the victory of love. Herbert’s poem, ‘Love’ says it all. 

                           

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
            Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
    From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
            If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
            Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
            I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
            ‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
            Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
            ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
            So I did sit and eat.