O Saving Victim

The fourth in a series of five Holy Week posts on the Pray Channel at Humane Pursuits.

I claim no originality in this post. In my meditation, I have relied upon the classical formularies of Anglican texts such as the Prayer Book (with its Psalter) and Hymnal. Over the past few months, they have been my indispensable supports for prayer and devotion.

Forty days and forty nights—that is a long while to fast and wander, following You in the wilderness. Dostoevsky said that You and the Devil have been fighting on the battlefield of my soul, but I only talk of my own ache. But what of yours? You bear a load I cannot, on a road that I wist not. How strange You are: in my sin and anger I fly far from You but cannot escape Your immanence. Thou art with me; Thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help.

And now this week Thou hast set Thy face like flint to Jerusalem. Thou art her Prince, but she shalt kill Thee. Thou shalt walk the way of death and tears. Thou shalt plant Thy tree upon Golgotha; the skull of Death shall be under Thy foot. It—he—shall wound Thy heel.

Art Thou my Savior? I have followed Thee in this wilderness—in this Lent—for twenty five years. No pillar of flame, just the reports of a Man and the ministrations of His Body. Just His Body? Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they died. Thou art the living bread of heaven, and I eat. Thomas was told that they were blessed who did not see but believed. Thy presence came not in a cloud for me but took on flesh and dwelt among us. Though I shuffle along this pilgrim way, I try to keep my distance from Thee. Canst Thou be He, the anointed deliverer? My vices beset me; my failures haunt me; Thine enemies mock me; they lay snares for me; they take my friends; they discomfit my comrades. We call out to Thee, “Art Thou our Savior?”

The old doctor begins to sing an answer in the form of doxology:

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of Heaven to man below,
Our foes press on from every side,
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.

It takes strength to run. On a Sunday dawn, two men ran to an Empty Place. We all know Christ died. The instrument of His execution litters our sanctuaries and our baubles. But Mary brought strange news that day–a most holy word. The entrance to the tomb became a portal to everlasting life. Perhaps that is why John stopped on the outside and peaked into the darkness. Yes, Simon Peter rushed in, but John beheld the picture of salvation. He was astonished, and so am I.  And St. John said that he was the disciple that You loved.

I’ve had it all wrong. This way is not the way of death. It is the way of life, and that eternal. How hast Thou offended that I should drive Thee afar off? Thou hast come to redeem me and a world broken by me, by my fathers, by my first father Adam. I crucified Thee; Thou wilt resurrect me with thy holy nation. Have mercy upon me and hear Thou my prayer: I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. I hope; help Thou my despair. I love; help Thou my pride. I was baptized into Thy death and Thy resurrection. I am grafted into Thy side, O Thou True Vine and Shoot of Jesse. In me—in spite of me—let Thy fruit spring in the dry places. Thou art the Wellspring that nourisheth my soul.

Weigh not my merits; pardon my offences. Thou art the sin offering. Thine is the sacrifice for transgression and propitiation; mine is but to offer praise and thanksgiving in Thee, and through Thee, and to Thee. Thy blessed passion, precious death, mighty resurrection, and glorious ascension procure unto me innumerable benefits. The creed saith Thou art one Christ, “One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.” Thou takest me up into Thee, and thus I am brought into unity with God. Thy people are brought into the heavenlies, and with the seraphim we do cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are fully of Thy glory: glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High. Amen.”

All glory, laud, and honor, to Thee, Redeemer King.

[Editor’s note: this is the fourth in a series of five Holy Week posts on the Pray Channel at Humane Pursuits. Visit the others from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.]

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