Agincourt and After by Bro Duncan PBGV

Today is St Crispin’s Day and the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. Given my ancestry, I have mixed feelings about that. Do I get all patriotic about the English victory, or lament the French defeat? I’m a peaceable chap, so my tendency is to lie doggo and keep quiet. I like to think of myself as a citizen of the world, at home anywhere — especially in a comfy dog basket or beside a roaring fireside — so I don’t go in for arguments or quarrels. That doesn’t mean I lack love of country; but it does mean I don’t have to keep proclaiming that my country is better than yours or running yours down because it isn’t lucky enough to be mine.

I think BigSis is on to something when she says love is never negative about others. Love simply loves. The only competition love seeks is to be first in doing good to the other. I ‘spect that’s quite spiritual really. BigSis says you just have to look at a Crucifix and all your complicated ideas fall away when you see what love really means. I don’t know about that, but I do know that I’d do anything for Them. I’d forgive Them anything—anything at all. I think that’s what love means, don’t you?

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Grief

The grief of the people of Norway one year on from the Breivik massacre is compounded by what happened a couple of days ago in Aurora, Colorado. At the back of most people’s minds is the thought, ‘It could happen again.’ Where the technology exists (guns, grenades, etc), there will always be people mad enough or bad enough to use them for mass murder and there is practically nothing that can be done to prevent it. Does that mean we are both helpless and hopeless? I don’t think so.

Death is something we must all experience sooner or later. When it comes early, or to someone we love, or with pain and distress, we rebel against it. Everything in us cries out for life. It is for life that we were created, after all. But for a Christian, life is changed, not ended, by death. The trouble is, we don’t know what lies beyond this life. All the assurances in the world can do nothing to overcome our personal feelings of doubt or difficulty. We must cling, as Mary, Martha and Lazarus clung, to our friendship with the Lord and trust that he will not abandon us after death any more than he has abandoned us in this life.

Grief weighs us down, shuts out the light, makes everything seem empty and hollow. At such times, it is good to look at a crucifix, that strange and terrible symbol of God’s aching love for us.  When there are no more tears to be shed and all the words that could be said have been said; when there is only the numbing pain of loss and the bleakness of an empty tomorrow, then the crucifix reminds us that God is not apart from us, uninvolved or uncaring. The bowed head of the Christus reminds us that he is with us always. He shares our sorrow, but unlike any other comforter we may have, he can and does transform our sorrow into joy.

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How to be a Good Sinner

Good people have a problem with sin. They are against it. The trouble is they are so busy trying to avoid sin they never take time to consider what it is and how it affects our lives. The more compassionate tend to minimize sin, knowing that God is all-merciful and all-forgiving, while the more rigorous, knowing that God is all-knowing and all-just, consign everyone, themselves possibly included, to hell. I personally think it is much better to try to be a good sinner.

A good sinner is one who recognizes the enormity of sin: who can look at a crucifix and say, I did that to you, but still you forgive me; who can admit that even their ‘best’ actions are not without an admixture of rather questionable motives; who knows that life consists in falling down and getting up again . . . simul peccator et iustus.

Let the last word be Phineas Fletcher’s, for I think he captured better than any the sense of the wound sin deals, the way it offends the infinite holiness of God, and the repentance wrung from the heart:

DROP, drop, slow tears,
And bathe those beauteous feet
Which brought from Heaven
The news and Prince of Peace:
Cease not, wet eyes,
His mercy to entreat;
To cry for vengeance
Sin doth never cease.
In your deep floods
Drown all my faults and fears;
Nor let His eye
See sin, but through my tears.

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The Power of the Crucifix

Crucifix by Giotto
Crucifix by Giotto

The crucifix, with its poignant twisted body and bleeding wounds, is a powerful reminder that suffering and death are part of our lives. When we look on ‘the one they have pierced’ we remember also the love that held him there: ‘See, I have graven you on the palms of my hands.’ Who would not take courage from that?

 

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