Tuesday, April 07, 2009

“O Lord and Lover of Men!”

From Speaking to the Soul today:
Daily Reading for April 7 • Tuesday in Holy Week

There is a phrase which the Greek Liturgy constantly applies to God in Christ: “O Lord and Lover of Men!” The whole meaning and drama of the Passion is gathered up in that. The Evangelists’ accounts—all the curt notes crowded together—reveal, when we take them separately and dwell upon them, the deep entrance into human suffering in all its phases, the utter self-giving to the vocation of sacrifice, of One Who is, in completeness, both the Lord and Lover of mankind.

Consider some of these episodes. The anointing by the woman of Bethany, of one who never seemed more divine than at this moment, accepting so peacefully the menacing web of events that are closing in; and then even that gesture of love spoilt by the sordid displeasure of His own disciple.

Then the incredible beauty of that two-fold act of selfless generosity, the Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet; the humble cleansing and feeding of the imperfect human creature, with its deep reverence for that human creature’s limitations and concern for that human creature’s needs.

And then Gethsemane, the real crisis and victory. The first prayer of natural agony: “If it is possible, don’t let this happen! I can’t face it!” And the second prayer: “If I must go through with this, Thy Will be done.” Because of that scene, at the very heart of human suffering, even its rebellions and fears, we are never alone. We often feel that we make a mess of our suffering and lose the essence of sacrifice, waste our opportunity, fail God, because we cannot stand up to it. Gethsemane is the answer of the Divine Compassion to that fear.

From The School of Charity: Meditations on the Christian Creed by Evelyn Underhill (London: Longmans, Green and Co Ltd., 1934).

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