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Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Passion of our Lord

The Episcopal Church of St. Paul, Chatham, NJ
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor

“WILD air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere. . .”
These are the words of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which he wrote about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It may sound strange to hear them on the Sunday of the Passion of our Lord, Palm Sunday, when we contemplate the passion, the crucifixion and death of Jesus, but as I think about it, I believe they are apt.

The air is wild – was wild, has been wild – this past week. Flights have been delayed because of the high winds at Newark airport the past few days.

It has been a week of wild air: The massacre of 13 immigrants in Binghamton, NY on Friday. The shooting death of three policemen in Pittsburgh, PA yesterday. Seven elderly residents and a nurse were shot to death in Carthage, North Carolina and five relatives in Santa Clara, California were murdered a week ago today, before the gunman killed himself.

Senseless deaths. Confounding, disturbing deaths.

One moment the sky is blue with the hope of spring. The next, the sidewalk and walls are red with the horror of innocent blood.

Today we remember and celebrate with Jesus his triumphal entrance into the City of Jerusalem

Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! We shout, our voices ringing and echoing the same shouts which rang out centuries ago.

How quickly things turned. How soon the air turns wild.

How soon the man from Nazareth, Jesus, once hailed as King, would become the object of scorn and ridicule. We watch helpless, silently, as he is betrayed with a kiss by the one who hoped too much, dreamed too much, feared too much, trusted too little.

And so the mission was aborted – or, is it that new life begun?

Who is to know? The air is as wild as the air at dawn – at the beginning of a New Age – at the birth of a New Way of being with God.

And so we labor on this pilgrimage, walking the Via Delorosa, the way of sorrow.

We walk as pilgrims - from the Garden of Gethsamane to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, and onto Calvary.

We pilgrims walk. We retrace each footstep he took. We weep each tear with his Blessed Mother. We feel each sob rise to life in our hearts only die in our weary throats. We feel as useless as a broken pot.

We feel each contraction of the very thoughts of the betrayal and trial and crucifixion and death squeeze our intellect beyond our wildest imagination in the wild air of the Unconditional Love as yet unbirthed, undied, and so our song is yet Love Unknown.

Even though we know how the story ends, we are sore afraid. Because the air is wild. As it always is when something is about to end and something is about to begin.

Something is in the air. Something that is as transformational as laboring for a child.

Jesus is about to know some of what Mary went through to bring him to this place, this time, this moment. The hard work of her labor is being redeemed on the hard wood of his cross. The miracle of his birth is being reborn in his death.

For him. For us all.

May the poem of Gerard Manley Hopkins to the Mother of Our Lord be our prayer with her this Holy Week:

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;

My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin;

Above me, round me lie
Fronting my froward eye
With sweet and scarless sky;

Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:

World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,

Fold home, fast fold thy child.



gerry said...


Thanks for the Gerard Manley Hopkins. I had forgotten it completely. The air is wild and has been wild indeed! There was turmoil and tension in the air.

I had felt the tension for most of last week. It broke when I picked up the phone at work to hear Eleanor, my 15 year old say, "I'm ok Dad, they locked down the High School after the shooting at the Civic Center.

The tension is gone but the pain and the grief remain and is still unrolling. My wife just learned that a student in her middle school lost both parents in the shootings at the American Civic Association, leaving he and his six year old sister orphanned.

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;

My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin...

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Holy Week makes me think every year about the dangers of "Mob Rule" and how we need to guard our own thoughts and actions so that we neither fall to the power of mob rule, nor become so fearful that we become one of the silently disagreeing bystanders. So often our disagreeing silence becomes tacit approval. Ask those who survived the Holocaust.