Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

For Iames the gentele iugeth in his bokes
That fayth withouten feet is feblore than naught
And as ded as a dore-nayl but yf the dedes folowe:
Fides sine operibus mortua est.
Chastite withouten charite worth cheyned in hell;
Hit is as lewed as a laumpe that no liht is ynne. (I.181-185)

For gentle James judges in his book
That faith without works is a feeble thing,
Dead as a doornail unless deeds follow:
Faith without works is dead
Chastity less charity will be chained in hell;
It is as useless as a lamp that bears no light. (Trans. Pearsall)

William Langlang, Piers Plowman

As we draw closer to Lent, these words haunt me.

Two weeks ago I was on the bus, as is often, and most folks were quiet and enjoying the dark rainy ride home from a long day at work, save one woman on her phone. She had her newborn snuggled up to her in a Moby-wrap, and was talking to her partner(?) about their rent due and another issue involving a lawyer and more money going out of their pockets. It was likely uncomfortable to most because her business had instantly become their business. I imagine most people might have been upset as this one phone call was now their unsolicited phone call.

I knew I had a five-dollar bill in my billfold. It wasn’t a twenty or a fifty or even a ten. And it was more than just a crumpled single or a bit of change. It was enough to offer mercy, but hopefully not enough to make her feel uncomfortable to take it. “It’s not much,” I though over in my head, “but this may help you and your child more than I will help me.” The words were with me and well rehearsed. I even felt back in my wallet to make sure the bill was still there. It was, but as we drew nearer to the busstop, I grew tense. I worried that the gesture might embarrass her in front of so many people on the full bus. “I don’t want/need your charity,” I imagined her saying. She might even resent me and my offer, and give me a few words in reply for sticking my nose in her family’s financial business.

The bus stopped. The crowds and I exited as the mother and her son sat quietly to move on to the next terminal.

Langland’s words haunt me.

Langland is writing a poem about the world he sees around him, drenched in commerce and commodification. The Church, evinced its priests, monks, and friars are  everywhere in his society, but so too vice; the virtues are latent.

The poem’s main protagonist, Will, is all too often concerned with how he might save his soul (I.80).

Me too, Good Will.

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1 Vexilla Regis prodeunt;
fulget Crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo.

3 Quo vulneratus insuper
mucrone diro lanceae,
ut nos lavaret crimine,
manavit unda et sanguine.

4 Impleta sunt quae concinit
David fideli carmine,
dicendo nationibus:
regnavit a ligno Deus.

5 Arbor decora et fulgida,
ornata Regis purpura,
electa digno stipite
tam sancta membra tangere.

6 Beata, cuius brachiis
pretium pependit saeculi:
statera facta corporis,
praedam tulitque tartari.

9 O Crux ave, spes unica,
hoc Passionis tempore!
piis adauge gratiam,
reisque dele crimina.

10 Te, fons salutis Trinitas,
collaudet omnis spiritus:
quos per Crucis mysterium
salvas, fove per saecula. Amen.

1 Abroad the regal banners fly,
now shines the Cross’s mystery:
upon it Life did death endure,
and yet by death did life procure.

Who, wounded with a direful spear,
did purposely to wash us clear
from stain of sin, pour out a flood
of precious water mixed with blood.

4 That which the prophet-king of old
hath in mysterious verse foretold,
is now accomplished, whilst we see
God ruling the nations from a Tree.

5 O lovely and refulgent Tree,
adorned with purpled majesty;
culled from a worthy stock, to bear
those limbs which sanctified were.

6 Blest Tree, whose happy branches bore
the wealth that did the world restore;
the beam that did that Body weigh
which raised up Hell’s expected prey.

9 Hail Cross, of hopes the most sublime!
Now, in the mournful Passion time;
grant to the just increase of grace,
and every sinner’s crimes efface.

10 Blest Trinity, salvation’s spring
may every soul Thy praises sing;
to those Thou grantest conquest by
the Holy Cross, rewards supply. Amen.

[Thesaurus Precum Latinarum]

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ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους,
καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους.

Mandatum novum do vobis
ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

The Gospel of St John

Rembrandt van Rijn, “Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples” (c. 1655)

See maundy

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Πάντων δὲ τὸ τέλος ἤγγικεν.
σωφρονήσατε οὖν καὶ νήψατε εἰς προσευχάς·

Omnium autem finis adpropinquavit
estote itaque prudentes et vigilate in orationibus

The end of all things is near;
therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. (4.7)

The First Epistle of St Peter

Theophanes of Crete, “The Crucifixion” (1535)

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Exulta satis filia Sion!
Iubila filia Hierusalem!

Ecce rex tuus veniet tibi,
iustus et salvator,
ipse pauper et ascendens super asinum et super pullum filium asinae.


Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!

See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (9.9)

The Book of Zechariah

Giotto di Bondone, “Christ enters Jerusalem,” Scrovegni Chapel, Padua (1305-06)

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God our Father,
as we have celebrated today the mystery of the Lord’s resurrection,
grant our humble prayer:
free us from all harm
that we may sleep in peace
and rise in joy to sing your praise.
Through Christ our Lord,

May the all‐powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.

“Compline”, Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire

n., the last of the seven canonical hours recited or sung just before retiring.

[Middle English, alteration of compli, from Old French complie, from Medieval Latin hōra complēta, final hour]

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My wounds are corruption and decay
because of my foolishness.
I am bowed down and bent,
bent under grief all day long.

For a fire burns up my loins,
and there is no health in my body.
I am afflicted, utterly cast down,
I cry out from the sadness of my heart.

Lord, all that I desire is known to you;
my sighs are not hidden from you.
My heart grows weak, my strength leaves me,
and the light of my eyes – even that has gone.

My friends and my neighbours
keep far from my wounds.
Those closest to me keep far away,
while those who would kill me set traps,
those who would harm me make their plots:
they plan mischief all through the day.

Psalm 37

In a world in which it is assumed we share no goods in common, medicine cannot help but seem to be but another impersonal institution that delivers services to consumers. Ironically, a medicine so determined cannot acknowledge that the body, which allegedly is the subject of the medical arts, is a storied body. For a storied body is not the body of “anyone,” but the body determined by a particular history of a particular community.

If the body is appropriately understood as a storied body, Berry argues that no hard and fast distinction can be drawn between the physical and the spiritual. That we currently make that distinction, according to (Wendell) Berry, only reflects how an understanding of the body as a machine has come to dominate our lives and, in particular, medical care. As a result Berry describes the contemporary hospital as a place where the world of love meets the world of efficiency, that is, the world of specialization, machinery, and abstract procedures, in a manner that those worlds are relegated to separate spheres. At best love can be expressed in such a context primarily as the attempt to get the “best medical care available” – but the “best medical care available” is not determined by a community of love.

Stanley Hauerwas, “The body of medicine and the Christian body”

[ABC Religion & Ethics, March 2012. Full text here]

Healing of the Leper, Chapel of St. Sylvester, Ueberlingen (986-1000)

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