Ecce gratia

This is a reflection I wrote last week for the Good Friday Project that St. James Episcopal Church presented on April 19, 2019. It’s an annual program they present, a variety of artists from their community, and from other churches in the area, offer pieces of music, poetry, dance, and more, in a contemplative setting.

Part I: Ecce homo “Behold the man”
“It is finished.”
They long for the final 
exhalation, these lips that still
pucker at the tang of sour wine;
Arid gust swirls a faint muskysweet  po
scent upward from the Mary who
kneels at the foot of my cross.
Ah, I recall the rough silk of her
hair on my feet. Nard for burial
while I breathed and lived. Her gesture 
was for me; she graced my death,
where Peter and the others could not.
There, my mother and my beloved disciple;
no man can sunder such love.
I focus on their loved faces and my pain
subsides. 
Ecce homo, Pilate commanded.
Demanded the city look and see.
He did not ask of me, ecce populus;
no matter, all is Rome’s
Ah, but I love them nonetheless.
They know not how scorn
echoes down the ages.
Father, I will bear the agony
that in the garden began. 

Part II: Ecce tibi “Behold oneself”
Boston in spring 2007. Our heroine, a grad student presenting at a national conference. Pop Culture—easy to get into, true–exciting, nonetheless. Her paper all about quest literature. The lesson: there’s no one in Avalon to save us; we must save ourselves. Medieval studies sessions catch her attention. The grail’s in Boston, she learns—alive and well in the public library. So, on that Friday in glorious spring, she’s skipping out to quest and finds Edwin Abbott’s eerie paintings in the library’s reading room. Perceval’s gaze still haunts her dreams, and the Holy Grail, that sacred cup, is unveiled in sacred, public space. Behold! What a joyous day with still time to quest. Out into the square she steps. Across the way, a well-aged church beckons her; come. No hesitation, off she goes, such pride in all she’s accomplished. “You can’t take pictures, she’s told at the door, “but please come in and be seated in silence.” The usher hands her a bulletin. It’s not until she’s seated and seen the quote straight back on the wall of the nave–He who does not love does not know God, for God is lovedoes she see the words on the top of the pageGood Friday—come in and pray. Our heroine weeps with sudden understanding: salvation and God have been present all along. She’s just finally been opened to God’s call. 

Part III: Ecce ipsi “Behold ourselves
Have you heard the prophet C. S. Lewis’ words? 
“No man can be an exile if he remembers that all the world is one city.”  

Part IV: Ecce familia 
Today, we stand outside of time and watch and pray.
Behold thy family, graciously, O Lord.
Love again begins. 

 

 

Credits: The C. S. Lewis quote is from Till We Have Faces. The featured image is What Our Lord Saw From the Cross, by James Tissot, painted between 1886 and 1894.

Gotta love that brood of vipers

John’s passion, will it ever find satisfaction?

Met a parishioner today who wanted to volunteer
to help our homeless neighbors.
“I can do something that doesn’t require physical contact?”
Touch them, seriously, do I have to?
But her cash is indeed welcome
to provide creature comforts–
bus passes, restaurant gift cards, socks.
That counts as touching, right?

John’s passion, will it ever find satisfaction?

And what about you, aghast that anyone
would ask that question
with such revulsion.
Your own repulsion, as if a snake had reared its hood.
Well, that’s a bad metaphor, because you love snakes;
maybe not love, but they’re God’s creatures, too,
oft maligned, oft destroyed (that saint made his reputation by
clearing them out of Ireland).

Your soul recoils
Isn’t she a viper because her desire
to give prophylactic help,
to remain untainted,
doesn’t that make her sterile?
Doesn’t that make her blind, and render,
yet again, 
the homeless invisible
“There are homeless in this hygenic place?” 
Yes, here. And here. And here.

John’s passion, you brood of vipers, when will it gain satisfaction?

Are you worth more just because,
regardless of your unfitness, 
you would yet be in the trenches?
Would not hesitate (unlike that dear rock
on which the church is founded)
to untie the thongs of his sandals,
enduring dung-tinged dirt that would sting
any viper’s scent-seeking tongue,
you would welcome and wash.
Be a foundation of hospitality.

When will your passion find its satisfaction?
Or are you looking for self sanctification?

Open your heart to all,
forego judgment,
yield to compassion.
God can raise stones in your place, too.