Sunday 10 December 2017

Pause for Advent 2 - The Passion; Luke chapter 22 and 23


“Cowards die many times before their deaths; 

The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”     Shakespeare - Julius Caesar

This quote crossed my path last week - around the same time that I listened to this podcast (which is stomach-turningly horrible about the death penalty for martyrs in Elizabethan England) from a series about the World in Shakespeare's time 

The thought came to me that Jesus had been extraordinarily courageous. 

Image result for rood screen creative commons

Today, as a preparation for this week's portion of Luke's gospel I re-read "The Dream of the Rood", an old-English poem that I came across on this blog

There are quite a few versions on the internet, for example here, or you can download a copy from amazon easily enough for some money.

This poem is the recounting of a dream that the teller had of the Cross, or Rood, telling the story of the  crucifixion. Christ is described a warrior, stepping up to his duty;

"I saw then the Saviour of mankind hasten with great zeal, as if he wanted to climb upon me. There I did not dare, against the word of the Lord, bow or break, when I saw the 
corners of the earth tremble. 

I might have felled all the enemies, even so, I stood fast.

He stripped himself then, young hero - that was God almighty - strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows, brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind.

I trembled when the warrior embraced me; even then I did not dare to bow to earth, but I had to stand fast. I was reared a cross. I raised up the powerful King, the Lord of Heaven; I did not dare to bend...."

I've found the first page of this introduction from a University of Oxford Course pack is very helpful with understanding the historical context of this poem.

Anyway, having read "The Dream of the Rood", I tackled the Luke chapters with less dread than I usually feel when reading this part of the Gospel. Luke is mercifully brief in his narrative.

When people say "oh, the world is getting worse and worse blah blah", I answer that at least we don't have such appalling punishments as public spectacles anymore.

I will read these gospel chapters again this week, with thankfulness for Christ's bravery and resolution at sticking to The Plan, in a way that few of us are asked to do these days. 


  1. I couldn't watch Gunpowder because of the torture scenes and it blows your mind that these things were real

    1. I didn't watch Gunpowder either, for the same reason.
      It is very hard to "un-see" or "un-know" things; sometimes it is better not to "go there", other times, like in reading the Passion of Christ, we have to go there.

  2. I haven't seen that poem since university- thank you for bringing it so vividly back! We joke about how we should "stick to the plan" in our house, usually when I'm trying to avoid embroiling everyone in another muddle, but your words ground the words in such faith x