Faith Matters: A strange prayer for Good Friday

"Drop by drop, Jesus Christ's blood was shed as a shepherd in defence of His sheep while not a tear drop falls from one whose heart is stone."
"Drop by drop, Jesus Christ's blood was shed as a shepherd in defence of His sheep while not a tear drop falls from one whose heart is stone."

I begin with a confession. I was a closet lover of poetry when at school.

I was not really at a school that valued the arts and literature. Perhaps more correctly, I was among students who could turn violent if you admitted to such loves.

Thankfully, I am older now and enjoy a contemplative reflection on a poem.

As we draw near to another Easter, I was introduced to a piece of poetry by Christina Rossetti.

Christina was English, born December 1830 and died December 1894. You may know the hymn Love Came down at Christmas which she authored. It is not, however, her Christmas hymn I want to share but her poem, Good Friday.

"Am I a stone, and not a sheep,

That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,

To number drop by drop Thy blood's slow loss,

And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved

Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;

Not so fallen Peter, weeping bitterly;

Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon

Which hid their faces in a starless sky,

A horror of great darkness at broad noon -

I, only I.

Yet give not o'er,

But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;

Greater than Moses, turn and look once more

And smite a rock."

I have often felt like Christina approaching Easter. The passion of God for us, expressed in the shed blood of His Son meets the man for whom the actions of God have become so well known, as to lull me into an almost unappreciative stupor.

Drop by drop, Jesus Christ's blood was shed as a shepherd in defence of His sheep while not a tear drop falls from one whose heart is stone. Twenty-one centuries ago, drop by drop, the blood of God did fall in love, only now to be celebrated with a holiday where hardly a tear of understanding falls.

Christina expresses the dilemma of Easter clearly as her poem begins, "Am I a rock, and not a sheep...". In other words, is Jesus Christ a shepherd to my living or am I lifelessly and godlessly disinterested.

Christina observes in her poem that loved women lamented Christ's crucifixion. The fallen man who denied knowing Jesus wept bitterly when he realised his circumstances. Even the condemned criminal was moved to trust, while the very creation was darkened by Christ's death.

As the poem makes clear, it bothered Christina Rossetti to not be moved similarly and her response is captured in the final prayerful stanza of her poem,

"Yet give not o'er, But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock; Greater than Moses, turn and look once more... And smite a rock."

It seems an odd things to suggest but perhaps this Easter you could pray with Christina, "Please smite my heart of rock". If you understand the poem, an answer to this prayer will forever be a blessing.