Speak Lord: Suffering Lord

DSC04839a Stoke.jpg

 

See, my servant will prosper,
he shall be lifted up, exalted, rise to great heights.

As the crowds were appalled on seeing him
– so disfigured did he look
that he seemed no longer human –
so will the crowds be astonished at him,
and kings stand speechless before him;
for they shall see something never told
and witness something never heard before:
‘Who could believe what we have heard,
and to whom has the power of the Lord been revealed?’

Like a sapling he grew up in front of us,
like a root in arid ground.
Without beauty, without majesty we saw him,
no looks to attract our eyes;
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering,
a man to make people screen their faces;
he was despised and we took no account of him.

And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we, we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings us peace,
and through his wounds we are healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep,
each taking his own way,
and the Lord burdened him
with the sins of all of us.
Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly,
he never opened his mouth,
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers
never opening its mouth.

By force and by law he was taken;
would anyone plead his cause?
Yes, he was torn away from the land of the living;
for our faults struck down in death.
They gave him a grave with the wicked,
a tomb with the rich,
though he had done no wrong
and there had been no perjury in his mouth.

The Lord has been pleased to crush him with suffering.
If he offers his life in atonement,
he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life
and through him what the Lord wishes will be done.

His soul’s anguish over
he shall see the light and be content.
By his sufferings shall my servant justify many,
taking their faults on himself.

Hence I will grant whole hordes for his tribute,
he shall divide the spoil with the mighty,
for surrendering himself to death
and letting himself be taken for a sinner,
while he was bearing the faults of many
and praying all the time for sinners.

First reading for the Solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion
Isaiah 52:13-53:12

The prophecy from Isaiah anticipates the Passion of Jesus, his suffering and his suffering for the nations. It also reveals the love and mercy of God who will reward this courage and this love.

From the love of Father and Son we find hope for our present and future: reconciliation that overcomes the faults of our pass and draws us into the future that is Spirit-filled and leads us heavenwards.

Earthenware plaque, attributed to Josiah and Thomas Wedgwood (c1760).  Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Hanley, Stoke on Trent. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: Draw us close…

Resurrection LerinsThe second reading at Sunday’s Mass  Comes from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This particular passage is believed to be Paul quoting the text of an early Christian hymn.

His state was divine,
yet Christ Jesus did not cling
to his equality with God
but emptied himself
to assume the condition of a slave
and became as men are;
and being as all men are,
he was humbler yet,
even to accepting death,
death on a cross.
But God raised him high
and gave him the name
which is above all other names
so that all beings
in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11

The readings of his Sunday anticipate the celebration of the Paschal Mystery which finds its richest expression in the liturgy of the Triduum.

However we hear these readings and celebrate the Paschal Mystery knowing what Jesus’ first companions had still to learn – what rising from the dead means.

This hymn from the Letter to the Philippians presents us with a fine summary of it all. It preserves the narrative of the incarnation of the Son of God, the Passion, and the Resurrection, but in a spam brief enough that to read of one is to anticipate or still recall the other ‘moments’ or ‘dimensions’ of God with us in Jesus.

And it calls us to praise and thanksgiving. As is often said the liturgy even of Good Friday is not a funeral service. The Church in the West may not sing alleluia, and the Church East and West may not celebrate Mass, but we remember the Passion knowing he is risen, and that he is Lord and in him we are safe and secure. We sing praise Palm Sunday and Good Friday albeit in somewhat quieter tones, sorrowing at the pain endured by the Son of God for us. A pain imposed, we know, by the likes of us.

Image of the resurrected Christ, Abbey of Lerins, France. (c) 2005, Allen Morris.