Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Silence...

It is the silence involved with the whole thing I find most unsettling...most compelling.

Silence in trial, long silences on the cross, prophetic fulfilment of ancient words...Isaiah 53:6-8.

Every year the local churches in my area in an unaccustomed act of unity have a 'march of witness'. This involves a short 'walk' following a carried cross along the street, stopping at various churches to have some Scripture read above the noise of the passing traffic.

As a piece of dramatic witnessing theatre I think that such an event in its weakness and vulnerability has meaning and significance.

Yet, I have struggled with it. For those who walked wanted to talk to one another (fellowship?). Some to hand out tracts (evangelism?). Some to dress in bright clothes (joy over victory?). Me I wanted a different kind of theatre - one of silence. People waking, saying nothing, just walking, behind a cross - silent in defiance of noise and words, silent and vulnerable, defiantly silent refusing to justify, refusing to explain, just bearing witness in silence, raising questions but offering no answers.

Yes, yes, words will come. Some from the Cross - 'Forgive' and after more silence words from the Tomb - 'He has Risen' - but not yet, please not yet...Lent has been long...but hold it still...keep the words at bay...let the silence be heavy with anticipation, painful, just a bit that when words are spoken they come finally with the power of a whisper to deafen, and ring like an incredible announcement of Good News.

I'm not walking this year. Don't want to talk.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Poetry of the Passion: I See His Blood Upon the Rose

During Holy Week I am posting on several poems which take me deeper into Holy Week. A couple of weeks ago, while reading through George Macleod's papers at the National Library of Scotland, I came across a number of typed poems. Macleod, the founder of the Iona Community, wrote some original poetry - but the one quoted here isn't one of them. There is a slim folder with poems copied from elsewhere, clearly important to Macleod.

Given his hostility to nuclear weapons and his profound theology of creation, incarnation and redemption, he developed a theological rationale for his anti-nuclear position. To split the atom, the constituent parts of reality, in order to release energy for purposes of human destruction, was for Macleod blasphemy. In creation, incarnation and redemption, matter became sacramental.

The following poem, read during Holy Week, explains something of Macleod's passion, and I use the word in both senses - emotional intensity and personal suffering. Few Kirk ministers approached Holy Week with more solemnity, or imbued it with more unsettling mystery. Part of the ambiguity and tangle of human affairs is that the poet of this remarkable poem (pictured above), was a signatory of the Declaration of the Irish Republic in 1916, a writer of such beautiful and spiritual perceptiveness, was executed for treason by the British Army, and at the time Macleod would have approved. Following the First War Macleod became a convinced pacifist and took time to type out this poem, written by an Irish Republican, whose spiritual vision of nature as sacrament of God paralleled Macleod's own deep sense of God's costly entanglement with His creation.

I See His Blood Upon the Rose
by Joseph Mary Plunkett (1887-1916).

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice -- and carven by His power
Rocks are His written words.

All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Yesterday our reading was from John's account of Mary pouring perfume over Jesus' feet (John 12.1-11). We ended up in a discussion about this action. I was reminded of Stuart's comments on the verse 'you will always have the poor with you' and also Sam Well's comments in his lent book Power and Passion:
The perfume was worth a year's wages. Think of all the useful things that could have been done with such a sum of money ... there is a nagging anxiety that the criticism is right - that waste is wrong in principle, and the waste of transferable wealth that could benefit the disadvantaged is invariably wrong in practice. Such a view deep down assummes that the fundamental problem with the world is the shortage of resources and that the fundamental solution is an incremental redistribution of those resources. Simply to pour resources away - to empty a jar of pure nard - is thus a terrible thing. But this view, though widely held, does not seem to be Jesus' view. Jesus does not live in a world of scarity. For him, the defining force is the love of his Father, of which there is more than an enough for everybody and plently besides. For Jesus, the glorious abundance of the women's perfume epitomizes the extravagant nature of God's love in sending his own Son. (166-167)