Devotion~Passion Week

Christ Crucified, 1632, Diego Velazquez, 1599-1660. oil on canvas, 97.6 x 66.5 inches, Museo del Prado, Spain. Image Source

As you gaze at this painting what words float to your mind?

Perhaps your list would be something like: Sacrifice, Suffering, Blood, Black, Alone…

or perhaps it is very different, but I encourage you to make a list and then question your feelings about the words on your list.

Velazques brings us to the foot of the Cross. It is as if we are there standing and waiting for his suffering to end. We can experience the cross as a close friend or family member. We can make it personal.

It is interesting to find that there have been many such observers over the years and the following poem was written by a French monk Bernard of Clairvaux who lived (1090-1153).  He makes the cross personal by writing a passion poem that is a devotion to the seven parts of Christ body as he suffers on the Cross. His feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and face.

Over time, his passion hymn becomes a part of a regular devotional practice that happens over the seven days before Easter Sunday. Each day the worshiper focuses on a different part of Christ’s body and Christians use this passion hymn for some 500 years.

Martin Luther is greatly inspired by the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, eventually reaching down to J. S. Bach who uses the hymn tune to harmonize what we now know as “O Sacred Head”

I hope you will spend a little time with this painting/poem/choral combination.

To His Feet                                                                                                                                

Behold on the mountains the feet of him who brings good tidings who proclaims peace.

Nahum 1:15

Greetings, savior of the world, Greetings, beloved Jesus! 

I should like to hang with you on your cross. Verily you know why; 

Give me your strength. 

The nails in your feet, the hard strokes and the severe weals – 

Full of emotion I embrace them, Full of anxiety at the sight of you, bearing your wounds in mind. 

Sweet Jesus, merciful God, 

I call to you, though I be guilty: 

Show yourself in mercy to me, 

Do not reject me, unworthy, 

From your holy feet. 

Behold, on the mountains. Greetings, savior of the world … 

 To His Knees

You shall be carried upon her hip, and dandled upon her knee.

Isaiah 66:12

Greetings, Jesus, king of the saints, 

Thou welcome hope for the sinner, 

Hanging on the wood of the cross, 

Like a guilty man, yet the true God, 

Bending with doomed knees. 

How should I answer you? 

Feeble of action, hard of heart? 

How should I repay your love? 

You who chose to die for me, 

That I might not suffer a twofold death?

To seek you with a pure spirit ­May that be my primary concern, 

It is neither troublesome nor arduous for me, because I shall become whole and pure upon embracing you. 

You shall be carried upon her hip … 

To His Hands 

What are these wounds in thy hands? 

Zech 13:6

Greetings, Jesus, Good Shepherd, Exhausted from your struggle with death,          

Tormented by the wood, 

And affixed to the wood 

By your outstretched, holy hands. 

Holy hands, I embrace you. 

And, lamentingly, I take pleasure in you, I give thanks for these severe blows. 

For the terrible nails and the holy drops of blood, I kiss you while weeping. 

Moistened by your blood 

I entrust myself wholly unto you;

May your holy hands –Protect me. Jesus Christ, 

In my last hour of need. 

What are these wounds…. 

To His Side 

Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away, o my dove, in the clefts of the rock,                  In the covert of the cliff.     

Song 2:13-14

Greetings, side of my savior, 

In which the sweetness of honey lies concealed, In which the power of love is revealed, 

From which the spring of your blood gushes forth, which washes clean the besmirched heart. 

Behold, I am approaching you, 

Spare me, Jesus, if I fail. 

With reverent visage 

I come of my own free will to you, To examine your wounds. 

May my soul at the hour of death enter into your side, 0 Jesus, 

When I pass away, may it enter into you, So that it is not attacked by a wrathful lion,         

but may forever remain with you. 

To His Breast 

Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. 

I Peter 2:2-3

Greetings, Lord, my salvation, Sweet Jesus, my beloved, Greetings, worthy breast; 

I may only touch you with quivering hand, O domicile of love. 

Render my heart pure, 

Ardent, pious and full of sighs, 

Allow me to cast aside my own desires, And to become wholly yours, 

In the fullness of all virtues. 

Hail, true temple of God, 

I pray you have mercy on me. 

You, the shrine of all goodness, Let me be among the chosen ones. 

O precious vessel, 0 God of all things. 

Like newborn babes .. 

To His Heart

You have ravished my heart….. 

Song 4:9

I greet you, heart of the highest King, 

I salute you with joyous heart; 

It delights me to embrace you. 

And my heart demands 

That you inspire me to speak to you. 

Let your love enter 

Into the innermost part of my heart- 

The heart of a sinner and guilt-laden person.                                                                     

Through me, your heart will be torn asunder.                                                              

Becoming exhausted by the wound of love. 

With the living voice of my heart I call to you, sweet heart, for I love you.

Incline yourself towards my heart, 

So that it may nestle against you 

With humility. 

You have ravished my heart … 

To His Face

Let thy face shine on thy servant; save me in thy steadfast love.

Psalm 31:16

Greetings, head daubed in blood, 

Entirely crowned with thorns, 

Disfigured and covered in wounds, 

Struck with the cane, 

The face spat upon and soiled. 

If then, I must die, 

Do not stay far away from me 

In the anxious hour of death Come, Jesus, without delay, protect me and liberate me! 

If you cause me to go away, 

Dear Jesus, then appear to me, O lover whom I wish to embrace,                                      

Then show yourself to me 

On the cross that brings salvation. 


2 Comments Add yours

  1. MOD says:

    Excellent devotional!


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