Thursday, September 9, 2010

For the Brit Lit Chicks and Everyone Else

Precious friends, I just wanted to share an incredible story I read recently in a British literature book.  It is from Ancrene Riwle, a book on monastic rule written sometime between the 12th and 13th centuries.  The following words are powerful and simply stunning.  Enjoy.  :) 

From Ancrene Riwle
The Parable of the Christ-Knight

A lady was completely surrounded by her enemies, her land laid waste, and she herself quite destitute, in a castle of clay.  But a powerful king had fallen in love with her so inordinately that to win her love he sent her his messengers, one after another, often many together; he sent her many splendid presents of jewelry, provisions to support her, help from his noble army to hold her castle.  She accepted everything as if it meant nothing to her, and was so hard-hearted that he could never come closer to gaining her love.  What more do you want?  At last he came himself; showed her his handsome face, as the most supremely handsome of men; spoke so very tenderly, and with words so beguiling that they could raise the dead to life; worked many wonders and did great feats before her eyes; showed her his power; told her about his kingdom; offered to make her queen of all that he owned.  All this had no effect.  Was not this scorn surprising?--for she was never fit to be his maidservant.  But because of his gentle nature love had so overcome him that at last he said: "You are under attack, lady, and your enemies are so strong that without my help there is no way that you can escape falling into their hands, and being put to a shameful death after all your troubles.  For your love I am willing to take on that fight, and rescue you from those we are seeking your death.  But I know for certain that in fighting them I shall receive a mortal wound; and I will accept it gladly in order to win your heart.  Now, therefore, I beg you, for the love I am showing towards you, to love me at least when this is done, after my death, although you refused to during my life."  This king did just as he had promised; he rescued her from all her enemies, and was himself shamefully ill-treated and at last put to death.  But by a miracle he rose from death to life.  Would not this lady have a base nature if she did not love him after this above all things?

This king is Jesus, Son of God, who in just this way wooed our soul, which devils had besieged.  And he, like a noble suitor, after numerous messengers and many acts of kindness came to prove his love, and showed by feats of arms that he was worthy of love, as was the custom of knights once upon a time.  He entered the tournament and, like a bold knight, had his shield pierced through and through in battle for love of his lady.  His shield, which hid his divinity, was his dear body, which was stretched out on the cross: broad as a shield above in his extended arms, narrow below, where the one foot (as many people think) was fixed above the other.  That this shield has no sides is to signify that his disciples, who should have stood by him and been his sides, all fled from him and abandoned him like strangers, as the Gospel says: They all abandoned him and fled [Matthew 25:56].  This shield is given to us against all temptations, as Jeremiah testifies: You will give your labor as a shield for the heart [Lamentations 3:65].  This shield not only protects us against all evils, but does still more: it crowns us in heaven.  With the shield of good will [Psalms 5:12]--"Lord," says David, "you have crowned us with the shield of your good will."  He says, "shield of good will" because he suffered willingly all that he suffered.  Isaiah says: He was offered because he wished to be [Isaiah 53:7].

"But, master," you say, "what was the point?  Could he not have saved us without so much suffering?"  Yes, indeed, very easily; but he did not wish to.  Why?  To deprive us of any excuse for denying him our love, since he had paid so dearly for it.  You buy cheaply what you do not value highly.  He bought us with his heart's blood--a higher price was never paid--to attract our love, which cost him so much suffering.  In a shield there are three things: the wood, and the leather, and the painted design.  So it was in this shield:  the wood of the cross, the leather of God's body, the painting of the red blood which colored it so brightly.  The third reason, then: after a brave knight's death, his shield is hung high in the church in his memory.  Just so this shield--that is, the crucifix--is place in church where it can be seen most easily, to be a reminder of the knightly prowess of Jesus Christ on the cross.  His beloved should see in this how he bought her love: he let his shield be pierced, his side opened up, to show her his heart, to show her openly how deeply he loved her, and to attract her heart.

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