“Good Friday” by Christina Rossetti (1896)

“Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Left: William H. Johnson, Jesus and the Three Marys, 1935. (Source) Right: Walter Habdank, Peter and the Crowing Rooster, 1979. (Source)

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon—
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.”

Left: Daniel Bonnell, The Good Shepherd. (Source) Right: Woodcut by P. Solomon Raj, 2008. (Source)

________________

In this poem Rossetti addresses Jesus as the New Moses, asking him to strike her heart of stone to make it pour out tears for him. (See Numbers 20:1-13.) She’s ashamed of her inability to generate emotion over Christ’s death. Positioning herself as a disengaged spectator at the foot of the cross, she contrasts her coldness with the deep grief of the three Marys and the penitence of Peter and the thief on the cross. Even the sun and moon, she says, have retreated from their posts to mourn.

Just like the desert-wandering Israelites of the Old Testament, Rossetti calls out from her personal desert to ask for an emotional breakthrough, for refreshment and release.

Maybe you’re in the same boat as Rossetti: you desperately want to forge a connection with Christ, to observe this Lenten season with all sincerity, but you’re having trouble. I encourage you to pray that Christ would strike your heart and make it gush; that he would, as the greater Moses, lead you into God’s promises but also into a deeper, more grateful awareness of the cost at which those promises were secured.

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