The Paleness of Words

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from the First Psalm Prayer for Wednesday Week Three of Lent

God of mercy and goodness, when Christ called out to you in torment, you hear him and gave him victory over death because of his love for you. We already know the affection you have for us; fill us with a great love of your name, and we will proclaim you more boldly before men and happily lead them to celebrate your glory.

It's actually for the third Wednesday of the Psalter, but that's a detail.

Notice the oddly attenuated language of the second sentence. We have the horrible details of the agony of the crucifixion and then we have, "We already know the affection you have for us." This sounds like something a deist might write about God. He is affectionate. Affection is what I have for my dog and it hardly does justice to:

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

That is not "affection," something that might well be shared amongst 70 year old retired colonels in an Edwardian Men's Club. This is love. This is the love of Christ--stronger than death, reaching out beyond the grave and demanding the resurrection on the sheer strength of the love for God and for all humanity--for God BECAUSE OF the love for all humanity--loving us so much that He desires to incorporate each of us in all of our diverse ways and forms into His body and thus make His body a patchwork of the nature of love, stronger for its many facets--stronger for the passion of the Scholar and defender, stronger for the passion of the Servant, stronger for the deep devotion of the mystic, stronger for the deep devotion of the missionary.

God's love for us is not affection, nor is it mere fondness. It is a love that burns in cleansing flame, a love that transforms, a love that utterly changes what it touches while leaving it exactly the same. His love is an unquenchable fire that He wants to burn in our own hearts it is the exact image of the love any good parent bears a child, taken beyond the limits of our ability to understand because the Triune, Uniate, Simple, Infinite Being that is God is all Love.

So when we read the wan and etiolated synonyms for the yearning of God toward us, the desire for us, the will for us to join Him eternally, let us recall for a moment the Song of Songs and remember what those words are standing for. The unquenchable, eternal, brilliant, transforming, all-encompassing flame of love whose burning exalts us, lifts us up, and changes us into the One who loves us--if we say only "Let it be done unto me as you will."

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This sounds like something a deist might write about God.

Maybe so, but it beats what I said aloud this pre-dawn: "We already know the affliction you have for us."



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 14, 2007 7:14 AM.

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