A Poem for Good Friday: George Herbert, “The Sacrifice”

“The Sacrifice,” from The Temple, by the 17th Century Anglican poet and priest, George Herbert (1593-1633).  A beautifully moving poem for Good Friday.


 

Oh all ye, who passe by, whose eyes and minde
To worldly things are sharp, but to me blinde;
To me, who took eyes that I might you finde:

Was ever grief like mine?

The Princes of my people make a head
Against their Maker: they do wish me dead,
Who cannot wish, except I give them bread:

Was ever grief like mine?

Without me each one, who doth now me brave,
Had to this day been an Egyptian slave.
They use that power against me, which I gave:

Was ever grief like mine?

Mine own Apostle, who the bag did beare,
Though he had all I had, did not forbeare
To sell me also, and to put me there:

Was ever grief like mine?

For thirtie pence he did my death devise,
Who at three hundred did the ointment prize,
Not half so sweet as my sweet sacrifice:

Was ever grief like mine?

Therefore my soul melts, and my hearts deare treasure
Drops bloud (the onely beads) my words to measure:
O let this cup passe, if it be thy pleasure:

Was ever grief like mine?

These drops being temper’d with a sinners tears,
A Balsome are for both the Hemispheres:
Curing all wounds, but mine; all, but my fears:

Was ever grief like mine?

Yet my Disciples sleep: I cannot gain
One houre of watching; but their drowsie brain
Comforts not me, and doth my doctrine stain:

Was ever grief like mine?

Arise, arise, they come. Look how they runne.
Alas! what haste they make to be undone!
How with their lanterns do they seek the sunne!

Was ever grief like mine?

With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief,
Who am the way of truth, the true relief;
Most true to those, who are my greatest grief:

Was ever grief like mine?

Judas, dost thou betray me with a kisse?
Canst thou finde hell about my lips? and misse
Of life, just as the gates of life and blisse?

Was ever grief like mine?

See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands
Of faith, but furie: yet at their commands
I suffer binding, who have loos’d their bands:

Was ever grief like mine?

All my Disciples flie; fear puts a barre
Betwixt my friends and me. They leave the starre,
That brought the wise men of the East from farre.

Was ever grief like mine?

Then from one ruler to another bound
They leade me; urging, that it was not sound
What I taught: Comments would the text confound

Was ever grief like mine?

The Priest and rulers all false witnesse seek
’Gainst him, who seeks not life, but is the meek
And readie Paschal Lambe of this great week:

Was ever grief like mine?

Then they accuse me of great blasphemie,
That I did thrust into the Deitie,
Who never thought that any robberie:

Was ever grief like mine?

Some said, that I the Temple to the floore
In three dayes raz’d, and raised as before.
Why, he that built the world can do much more:

Was ever grief like mine?

Then they condemne me all with that same breath,
Which I do give them daily, unto death.
Thus Adam my first breathing rendereth:

Was ever grief like mine?

They binde, and leade me unto Herod: he
Sends me to Pilate. This makes them agree;
But yet their friendship is my enmitie:

Was ever grief like mine?

Herod and all his bands do set me light,
Who teach all hands to warre, fingers to fight,
And onely am the Lord of hosts and might:

Was ever grief like mine?

Herod in judgement sits, while I do stand;
Examines me with a censorious hand:
I him obey, who all things else command:

Was ever grief like mine?

The Jews accuse me with despitefulnesse;
And vying malice with my gentlenesse,
Pick quarrels with their onely happinesse:

Was ever grief like mine?

I answer nothing, but with patience prove
If stonie hearts will melt with gentle love.
But who does hawk at eagles with a dove?

Was ever grief like mine?

My silence rather doth augment their crie;
My dove doth back into my bosome flie,
Because the raging waters still are high:

Was ever grief like mine?

Heark how they crie aloud still, Crucifie:
It is not fit he live a day, they crie,
Who cannot live lesse then eternally:

Was ever grief like mine?

Pilate a stranger holdeth off; but they,
Mine own deare people, cry, Away, away,
With noises confused frighting the day:

Was ever grief like mine?

Yet still they shout, and crie, and stop their eares,
Putting my life among their sinnes and fears,
And therefore wish my bloud on them and theirs:

Was ever grief like mine?

See how spite cankers things. These words aright
Used, and wished, are the whole worlds light:
But hony is their gall, brightnesse their night:

Was ever grief like mine?

They choose a murderer, and all agree
In him to do themselves a courtesie:
For it was their own cause who killed me:

Was ever grief like mine?

And a seditious murderer he was:
But I the Prince of peace; peace that doth passe
All understanding, more then heav’n doth glasse:

Was ever grief like mine?

Why, Cesar is their onely King, not I:
He clave the stonie rock, when they were drie;
But surely not their hearts, as I well trie:

Was ever grief like mine?

Ah! how they scourge me! yet my tendernesse
Doubles each lash: and yet their bitternesse
Windes up my grief to a mysteriousnesse.

Was ever grief like mine?

They buffet me, and box me as they list,
Who grasp the earth and heaven with my fist,
And never yet, whom I would punish, miss’d;

Was ever grief like mine?

Behold, they spit on me in scornfull wise,
Who by my spittle gave the blinde man eies,
Leaving his blindnesse to mine enemies:

Was ever grief like mine?

My face they cover, though it be divine.
As Moses face was vailed, so is mine,
Lest on their double-dark souls either shine:

Was ever grief like mine?

Servants and abjects flout me; they are wittie:
Now prophesie who strikes thee, is their dittie.
So they in me denie themselves all pitie:

Was ever grief like mine?

And now I am deliver’d unto death,
Which each one cals for so with utmost breath,
That he before me well nigh suffereth:

Was ever grief like mine?

Weep not, deare friends, since I for both have wept
When all my tears were bloud, the while you slept:
Your tears for your own fortunes should be kept:

Was ever grief like mine?

The souldiers lead me to the common hall;
There they deride me, they abuse me all:
Yet for twelve heav’nly legions I could call:

Was ever grief like mine?

Then with a scarlet robe they me aray;
Which shews my bloud to be the onely way,
And cordiall left to repair mans decay:

Was ever grief like mine?

Then on my head a crown of thorns I wear:
For these are all the grapes Sion doth bear,
Though I my vine planted and watred there:

Was ever grief like mine?

So sits the earths great curse in Adams fall
Upon my head: so I remove it all
From th’ earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall:

Was ever grief like mine?

Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from whence all store
Of heav’nly blessings issue evermore:

Was ever grief like mine?

They bow their knees to me, and cry, Hail king:
What ever scoffes or scornfulnesse can bring,
I am the floore, the sink, where they it fling:

Was ever grief like mine?

Yet since mans scepters are as frail as reeds,
And thorny all their crowns, bloudie their weeds;
I, who am Truth, turn into truth their deeds:

Was ever grief like mine?

The souldiers also spit upon that face,
Which Angels did desire to have the grace,
And Prophets once to see, but found no place:

Was ever grief like mine?

Thus trimmed forth they bring me to the rout,
Who Crucifie him, crie with one strong shout.
God holds his peace at man, and man cries out:

Was ever grief like mine?

They leade me in once more, and putting then
Mine own clothes on, they leade me out agen.
Whom devils flie, thus is he toss’d of men:

Was ever grief like mine?

And now wearie of sport, glad to ingrosse
All spite in one, counting my life their losse,
They carrie me to my most bitter crosse:

Was ever grief like mine?

My crosse I bear my self, untill I faint:
Then Simon bears it for me by constraint,
The decreed burden of each mortall Saint:

Was ever grief like mine?

O all ye who passe by, behold and see;
Man stole the fruit, but I must climbe the tree;
The tree of life to all, but onely me:

Was ever grief like mine?

Lo, here I hang, charg’d with a world of sinne,
The greater world o’ th’ two; for that came in
By words, but this by sorrow I must win:

Was ever grief like mine?

Such sorrow, as if sinfull man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel,
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:

Was ever grief like mine?

But, O my God, my God! why leav’st thou me,
The sonne, in whom thou dost delight to be?
My God, my God –

Never was grief like mine.

Shame tears my soul, my bodie many a wound;
Sharp nails pierce this, but sharper that confound;
Reproches, which are free, while I am bound.

Was ever grief like mine?

Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down,
Alas! I did so, when I left my crown
And fathers smile for you, to feel his frown:

Was ever grief like mine?

In healing not my self, there doth consist
All that salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safetie in my sicknesse doth subsist:

Was ever grief like mine?

Betwixt two theeves I spend my utmost breath,
As he that for some robberie suffereth.
Alas! what have I stollen from you? death:

Was ever grief like mine?

A king my title is, prefixt on high;
Yet by my subjects am condemn’d to die
A servile death in servile companie:

Was ever grief like mine?

They gave me vineger mingled with gall,
But more with malice: yet, when they did call,
With Manna, Angels food, I fed them all:

Was ever grief like mine?

They part my garments, and by lot dispose
My coat, the type of love, which once cur’d those
Who sought for help, never malicious foes:

Was ever grief like mine?

Nay, after death their spite shall further go;
For they will pierce my side, I full well know;
That as sinne came, so Sacraments might flow:

Was ever grief like mine?

But now I die; now all is finished.
My wo, mans weal: and now I bow my head.
Onely let others say, when I am dead,

Never was grief like mine.


HT: Gene Edward Veith

 

 

St. John Chrysostom on Speaking in Anger

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“St. John Chrysostom preaching before the Empress Eudoxia,” Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921)

Considering the state the world is in today (if it’s ever not in this state), I was lead recently back to this selection from Chrysostom’s seventeenth homily on Acts 7:35, where he discusses Stephen’s manner of delivery during his speech before the Pharisees and religious authorities (prior to being stoned).  Chrysostom’s words are a good reminder for us all about how we ought to act when speaking hard truths or speaking publicly.

Such is the boldness of speech of a man bearing the Cross. Let us then also imitate this: though it be not a time of war, yet it is always the time for boldness of speech. For, “I spake,” says one, “in Thy testimonies before kings, and was not ashamed.” (Ps. cxix. 46.) If we chance to be among heathens, let us thus stop their mouths. without wrath, without harshness. (Comp. Hom. in 1 Cor. iv. §6; xxxiii. §4, 5; Col. xi. §2.) For if we do it with wrath, it no longer seems to be the boldness (of one who is confident of his cause,) but passion: but if with gentleness, this is boldness indeed. For in one and the same thing success and failure cannot possibly go together. The boldness is a success: the anger is a failure. Therefore, if we are to have boldness, we must be clean from wrath that none may impute our words to that. No matter how just your words may be, when you speak with anger, you ruin all: no matter how boldly you speak, how fairly reprove, or what not. See this man, how free from passion as he discourses to them! For he did not abuse them: he did but remind them of the words of the Prophets. For, to show you that it was not anger, at the very moment he was suffering evil at their hands, he prayed, saying, “Lay not to their charge this sin.” So far was he from speaking these words in anger; no, he spake in grief and sorrow for their sakes. As indeed this is why it speaks of his appearance, that “they saw his face as it had been the face of an angel,” on purpose that they might believe. Let us then be clean from wrath. The Holy Spirit dwelleth not where wrath is: cursed is the wrathful. It cannot be that aught wholesome should approach, where wrath goes forth. For as in a storm at sea, great is the tumult, loud the clamor, and then would be no time for lessons of wisdom (φιλοσοφεἵν): so neither in wrath. If the soul is to be in a condition either to say, or to be disciplined to, aught of philosophy, it must first be in the haven. Seest thou not how, when we wish to converse on matters of serious import, we look out for places free from noise, where all is stillness, all calm, that we may not be put out and discomposed? But if noise from without discomposes, much more disturbance from within. Whether one pray, to no purpose does he pray “with wrath and disputings:” (1 Tim. ii. 8) whether he speak, he will only make himself ridiculous: whether he hold his peace, so again it will be even then: whether he eat, he is hurt even then: whether he drink, or whether he drink not; whether he sit, or stand, or walk; whether he sleep: for even in their dreams such fancies haunt them. For what is there in such men that is not disagreeable? Eyes unsightly, mouth distorted, limbs agitated and swollen, tongue foul and sparing no man, mind distraught, gestures uncomely: much to disgust. Mark the eyes of demoniacs, and those of drunkards and madmen; in what do they differ from each other? Is not the whole madness? For what though it be but for the moment? The madman too is possessed for the moment: but what is worse than this? And they are not ashamed at that excuse; “I knew not (saith one) what I said.” And how came it that thou didst not know this, thou the rational man, thou that hast the gift of reason, on purpose that thou mayest not act the part of the creatures without reason, just like a wild horse, hurried away by rage and passion? In truth, the very excuse is criminal. For thou oughtest to have known what thou saidst. “It was the passion,” say you, “that spoke the words, not I.” How should it be that? For passion has no power, except it get it from you. You might as well say, “It was my hand that inflicted the wounds, not I.” What occasion, think you, most needs wrath? would you not say, war and battle? But even then, if anything is done with wrath, the whole is spoiled and undone.

Reproduced from St. John Chrysostom 1889. “Homily XVII on Acts VII.35,” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series 1, Vol. 11.  Edited by Philip Schaff.  Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans. Christian Classics Ethereal Library: 207-208.

Johann Gerhard, “Prayer for the Denial of Self” – Meditations on Divine Mercy

A friend shared this prayer from Gerhard on Facebook, and it’s beautiful.  It is definitely appropriate given this season of Lent.

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The King of Nineveh sets aside his crown and takes up sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3:4-8).

O JESUS CHRIST, Son of the living God, in Your Word You exclaim: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). I beg You through Your most holy death and crucifixion to perfect in me the denial of self that You require. I know it is easier to forsake all creationthan to deny self. I humbly beg You to accomplish in me that which of myself I do not know how to achieve. May the desires of my own will be stilled within me so I am able to hear Your divine admonition. May the weed of self-love be rooted out of my heart so the sweetest plants of divine love may grow within me. May I die totally to myself and my lusts so I may live totally for You and Your will. My will is changeable and erratic,fickle and unstable. Grant that I subject my will to Yours and that I cling unflinchingly to You, the only changeless and continuous good. Divine power increases in us only when natural powers fail. Only when our own will has been put to death are our works done in God (John 3:21). Only when we are brought to nothing and disappear do we truly exist in and live in God (Acts 17:28). O true Life, put to death my will so I may begin trulyto live in You. Anything in us that commends us to God and makes uspleasing to Him must descend from God Himself. Thus everything goodmust be ascribed to God alone, and that which is His must be left to Him.Whatever shines and gleams in us proceeds from God, who is the eternal and unchangeable light that lightens the inborn darkness of our minds. Thus may our light so shine before people, not that we are glorified butthat God is glorified (Matthew 5:16). Kindle in my heart, O Christ, the true light, the light of true understanding. Work in my heart, O Christ, the true glory of the Father, the denial of my own honor and glory. It is better for me to be nothing in You and receive Your everything than to be something in and of myself and have nothing. Where I am not, there I am happier. My weakness longs to be strengthened by Your might. My nothingness reaches for Your strength. May Your holy will be done on the earth of my flesh so Your heavenly kingdom may come in my soul(Matthew 6:10). Put to death in me the love and honor of self so thecoming of Your kingdom may not be hindered. If our consummate good is that we love God, then absolute evil must be for us to love ourselves. If the free giving of one’s self is a stipulation of true good, self-love is a great evil because it selfishly arrogates that which is its own and which belongs to others. If all glory is owed to God alone, then honoring one’s self is the greatest theft. Such an act ascribes to itself things that really belong to another. Extinguish my habitual desire for self-love and honor, O Christ,the one who is blessed for eternity.

AMEN.

from Johann Gerhard, Meditations on Divine Mercy. Translated by Matthew C. Harrison. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003.