Jerusalem is silent. The shofars have sounded, the priests with their ram’s horns have announced the beginning of Sabbath and now all things lie in unquiet silence. “And the Lord God rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work he had done in creation.”
“It is finished.” It is accomplished. The work has been done. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly host.”The Word has come forth and has accomplished what was purposed: in flesh. The word did not return empty, as it had been prophesied:
“For as rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again, but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth, seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth; it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it.”
It is accomplished. And the word has now returned. The breath of God has come forth and has now returned: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”“God’s breath in man returning to his birth,” as a poet once put it*. The word has accomplished what was purposed–in flesh.
The Great Poet of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible, has spoken; the word has gone forth in creation and now in an absolution of sheer grace: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”. The word speaks in incomprehensible absolution of our thieving, murderous race. In absolution of our psychopathic, sociopathic, Auschwitz-building, Trumpenstein monster-creating human race. Of course, there’s more to us than that, but there is all that to deal with, to absolve from. And it was accomplished: in flesh, in bloody flesh, in word made bloody flesh.
I wonder if on his way down the Mount of Olives, he kept his eyes on the temple. It would have been straight ahead of him as he came down the ancient road from Bethphage. Did he see the great horned altar with its plumes of smoke rising from the holocausts of sheep and goats? Or did he look just beyond the Temple Mount to a bit of a rise not more than a few hundred yards further on: the abandoned limestone quarry, the place of public executions and burials, the Place of the Skull. I wonder if that’s what caught his attention as the people sang their hosannas and children giggled when the donkey did what donkeys do, even on people’s coats in the road—it happens. What did he see, what did he hear? Did he hear the temple menagerie bleating in the distance, awaiting their ritual slaughter? Did he smell the rabble pressing against him? Or the smoke and incense from the altar carried on an easterly breeze? Did he wonder who the soldiers in the distance were crucifying that particular day?
But now it is finished. The bread has been broken, the wine poured out: the body and the blood. The garden prayed in, lit by a full Passover moon. A kiss deflected. The Romans have done what the Romans did. The people have cheered and jeered. The blood has poured out, the breath commended into the hands of the Father. Breasts have been beaten. The screams have stopped; the screams have finally stopped. The word, the creating breath of God has come forth in flesh and has accomplished what was purposed and has returned.And now his tormented flesh lies in the tomb.
In Jerusalem, all things lie in unquiet silence. In the depths of the earth a body is planted and now our souls in silence wait. Our souls in troubled silence wait for the word to be spoken again, for the creating breath from the mouth of God to make the next move. “O, Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy; with him there is plenteous redemption”, and he shall redeem us from all our sins. We wait in silence for the next new thing.
The shofars have sounded, the priests have put away their ram’s horns. We wait in silent Sabbath while the Lord rests from all the work he has done; from all the work he has done in creation, in absolution; we wait in unquiet silence for the next new thing…the next new breath, the next new creation, the next new life out of the depths of the earth…the next new word…in his word is our hope. Our souls wait for him, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
*George Herbert; “Prayer”
Additional Scriptures quoted: Gen. 2:2-3; Psalm 33:6; Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 130
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