from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert
Lord, who hast form’d me out of mud,
And hast redeem’d me through thy bloud,
And sanctifi’d me to do good;
Purge all my sinnes done heretofore:
For I confesse my heavie score,
And I will strive to sinne no more.
Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charitie;
That I may runne, rise, rest with thee.
Although technically a poem for Trinity Sunday, I think this poem could make a wonderful meditation for lent, which is almost upon us. Time to start thinking of dush and ashes, repentance and confession. I love the physicality of the last stanza with its body imagery, coupled with the imagery of running the course of life, rising at the last judgment, and resting eternally with God. And aside from the spelling (which is often updated in ccontemporary reprintings), this poem has a strikingly modern feel.
Also interesting to note here is the endless play on the number three: 3 stanzas of 3 lines each in triple rhyme. (Well, near rhyme, although it’s generous even to call “good” and “blood” a near rhyme. Herbert could have used a better rhyming dictionary).
The trinity evocation continues: the first stanza works as an invocation of the triune God (God creator, Christ redeemer, Spirit sanctifier), the second a confession (past, present, future), and the last a prayer of expectation, or even a benediction, with three sets of three (3×3): (hearts, mouth, hands; faith, hope, charity; run, rise, rest).
In keeping with the Trinitarian theme today, you will also almost assuredly recognize this icon by Andrei Rublev (ca. 1360 – 1430), considered to be the greatest medieval icon painter in the Orthodox Russian tradition. It portrays three angels being hosted by Abraham at Mamre, aka the Trinity, if you want to understand it like that. Jews don’t.
If I were a talented artist, I would undertake a version of this ubiquitous and universally recognized icon and paint it with – I don’t know – a woman, a black person, and an asian man. Just to shake up the mix a little bit. But I will leave that to someone with artistic talent.
Okay, one more trinitarian quote for you, before I disappear into the laundry list that is my day: this one from the Catholic Catechism (via this great blog). (George Herbert, medieval Russian Orthodox iconography, and the Catholic Catechism: I am all over the map today!)
732 On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the “last days,” the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated.
We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.
Amen, amen, and amen!
p.s. Warning: I am hoping to blog more during lent. Lent is my favorite season of the church year. Love it love it love it. So I’ll be back soon. Watch this space. And hang on to the edge of your chairs.