“A Thin Place”

The poet Robert Crawford describes the Isle of Iona, in the inner Hebrides, as a place where
“spirit, imagination, and physical exertion mingle” The photograph above is of the replica of St. John’s Cross. The original high cross stood on Iona from the the late 7th century, and today fragments of this original cross can be viewed in the museum within Iona Abbey. Lord George MacLeod, who founded the Iona Community in 1938 had the vision to restore the Abbey, described Iona as “a thin place where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual” As I write today it is Holy Week – a week in the Christian calendar that is full of so many emotions. Easter Day is only an arms length away, yet that length is full of incomprehensible sorrow and song. I turn to George Herbert(1593-1633) a poet priest, and share with you his poem The Agony. Writing so many centuries earlier Herbert describes in the opening lines that all the knowledge, data and discovery of the mind falls short of the inner knowledge, the spiritual knowledge and experience without which we are alone and adrift. Although Herbert describes the agony of sin and crucifixion, he does so to get us to redemption and Love. The last two lines are a profound description of Incarnation and sacrament. Ponder these words and pause to pray in this most holy of weeks.

The Agony
Philosophers have measur’d the mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of the seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
      But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that found them; Sin and Love.

      Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
      His skin, his garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through ev’ry vein.

      Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
      If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine. George Herbert

Holy, Holy , Holy,
Lord God Almighty,
in the silence and sadness of this
Holy Week, be my guide
through these days and hours.
Breathe your “Spirit” of grace and goodness
upon me and upon all people.
Merciful God, once again our prayers
cry tears of sorrow and sadness of the ongoing
deaths of the innocent, children and adults.
Forgive us from our foolish and selfish ways
Might we, as a society, nation, and world, be
transformed by the miracle of Easter.
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God Almighty,
help us down from the high stool of self -importance,
help us down from the high stool of arrogant assurance,
and help us to find in one another a new way, a new possibility.
Walk with us and teach us to walk toward Easter and on to Emmaus
where the light will cast not a shadow but a sunrise of hope. Amen.

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