The harrowing of hell

The harrowing of hell A harrow is a spiked implement that is drawn over ploughed land to break up clods, tear up weeds, and level the ground for planting. Knowing that bit of agricultural history gives the common figurative use of the word harrowing an important layer of meaning. We speak of a harrowing experience—one [Read More…]

Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross This ancient practice, observed especially on Good Friday, serves more than one purpose. It walks us through the events of Jesus’ betrayal, torture and death on the cross. It also invites reflection on the way suffering continues among the innocent, inflicted by the ignorant—the way, as Catholic writer Caryll Houselander put [Read More…]

Different from all other nights

Different from all other nights Why is this night different from all other nights? This question is asked on Passover as a prompt to remember the story of an enslaved people, spared and chosen and changed. Jesus didn’t abolish that commemoration, but transformed its meaning on the night he was betrayed. He carried out the [Read More…]

Too much with us

Too much with us “The world is too much with us, late and soon, / Getting and spending we lay waste our powers . . .” These opening lines of a Wordsworth sonnet (written among rolling English hills that make me wonder what “too much” looked like in 1807) come to me often as I [Read More…]

Imitation of Christ

Imitation of Christ The fifteenth-century devotional classic The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, according to some sources, is the most widely read devotional work among Christians outside the Bible. Clearly the idea of imitating Christ is appealing to pilgrim souls who long for union with God. To identify Christ as God incarnate puts him, [Read More…]

The Spirit of God came upon him . . .

And the Spirit of God came upon him . . . Biblical stories of encounters with God or with angelic beings are fascinating in their variety. Balaam lifted up his eyes, saw the tribes of Israel encamped, “and the Spirit of God came upon him.” The same Spirit came upon the messengers of Saul and [Read More…]

A multitude keeping festival

a multitude keeping festival . . . Ps. 42 I like the word festivity. It’s a little different from celebration, a lot different from partying. It has a slight antique ring to it, as well it might: references to festival, festal occasions and festivity go back as far as Exodus. Festive refers both to the [Read More…]

Prayer is a place

Prayer is a place “I go there all the time,” one woman said recently in a conversation about prayer. She went on to speak of prayer as an interior space she entered easily and often—a ready refuge from the rushing world. She had things to say about talking with God, but what struck me was [Read More…]

Evils done on our behalf

  Evils done on our behalf… Sometimes, though beautifully written, general confessions are not enough. In a sense, these words from the Book of Common Prayer cover the bases nicely: we have sinned against thee in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not [Read More…]

Recognition and epiphany

Recognition and epiphany Lately I keep coming back to Hopkins’ lovely line, “Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in eyes, lovely in limbs not his….”  It helps me look a little more closely and be a little more watchful for moments of recognition.  And it has sent me back to the Gospel of John with [Read More…]