Friday 22 April 2011

Christ the Knight

"Crist," seith Seinte Pawel, "luvede swa his leofmon thet he yef for hire the pris of him-seolven." Neometh nu gode yeme, mine leove sustren, for-hwi me ah him to luvien. Earst as a mon the woheth, as a king thet luvede a gentil povre leafdi of feorrene londe. He sende his sonden bivoren - thet weren the patriarches ant te prophetes of the alde testament - with leattres i-sealet. On ende he com him-seolven ant brohte the Godspel as leattres i-openet ant wrat with his ahne blod saluz to his leofmon, luve-gretunge, for-te wohin hire with ant hire luve wealden. Her-to falleth a tale, a wrihe forbisne.

A leafdi wes mid hire fan biset al abuten, hire lond al destruet, ant heo al povre in-with an eorthene castel. A mihti kinges luve wes thah biturnd upon hire swa unimete swithe, thet he for wohlech sende hire his sonden, an efter other, ofte somet monie, sende hire beawbelez bathe feole ant feire, sucurs of liveneth, help of his hehe hird to halden hire castel. Heo underfeng al as on unrecheles, ant swa wes heard i-heortet, thet hire luve ne mahte he neaver beo the neorre.

Hwet wult tu mare? He com him-seolf on ende, schawde hire his feire neb, as the the wes of alle men feherest to bihalden, spec se swithe swoteliche, ant wordes se murie, thet ha mahten deade arearen to live, wrahte feole wundres ant dude muchele meistries bivoren hire eh-sihthe, schawde hire his mihte, talde hire of his kinedom, bead to makien hire cwen of al thet he ahte. Al this ne heold nawt - nes this hoker wunder?

For heo nes neaver wurthe for-te beon his thuften, ah swa thurh his deboneirte luve hefde overcumen him, thet he seide on ende, "Dame, thu art i-weorret ant thine van beoth se stronge thet tu ne maht nanes-weis withute mi sucurs edfleon hare honden, thet ha ne don the to scheome death efter al thi weane. Ich chulle for the luve of the neome thet feht up-o me ant arudde the of ham the thi death secheth. Ich wat thah to sothe thet ich schal bituhen ham neomen deathes wunde, ant ich hit wulle heorteliche for-te ofgan thin heorte. Nu thenne biseche ich the, for the luve thet ich cuthe the, thet tu luvie me lanhure efter the ilke dede dead, hwen thu naldest lives." Thes king dude al thus: arudde hire of alle hire van, ant wes him-seolf to wundre i-tuket ant i-slein on ende - thurh miracle aras thah from deathe to live. Nere theos ilke leafdi of uveles cunnes cunde, yef ha over alle thing ne luvede him her-efter?

Thes king is Jesu, Godes sune, thet al o thisse wise wohede ure sawle, the deoflen hefden biset. Ant he as noble wohere efter monie messagers ant feole god-deden com to pruvien his luve ant schawde thurh cnihtschipe thet he wes luve-wurthe, as weren sum-hwile cnihtes i-wunet to donne - dude him i turneiment ant hefde for his leoves luve his scheld i feht as kene cniht on euche half i-thurlet. His scheld, the wreah his Godd-head, wes his leove licome thet wes i-spread o rode, brad as scheld buven in his i-strahte earmes, nearow bineothen as the an fot - efter mon ies wene - set up-o the other.

From Ancrene Wisse, Part 7. That is:

Christ, says St Paul, so loved his beloved that he gave for her the price of himself. Now pay good attention, my dear sisters, and learn why we should love him. First, as a man who woos, like a king who loved a noble poor lady from a distant land. He sent his messengers ahead with sealed letters - these were the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament. In the end he came himself and brought the gospel as opened letters, and wrote with his own blood greetings to his beloved, a salutation of love in order to woo her and gain her love. There is a story about this, an example with a hidden meaning.

A lady was besieged all around with enemies, her land all laid waste, and herself made poor, within a castle made of earth. However, a mighty king loved her so extravagantly that he sent her his messengers in courtship, one after another, often many together; he sent her many fair and splendid gifts, reinforcements and provisions, and help from his noble army to protect her castle. She received all these things without thought, and was so hard-hearted that he was never able to come any closer to her love.

What more do you want? In the end he came himself and showed her his beautiful face, as he who was of all men the fairest to look at. He spoke to her so sweetly with words so pleasant that they might bring the dead back to life, performed many marvels and did works of power before her eyes, showed her his power, told her about his kingdom and offered to make her queen of all that he owned. All this was of no use. Is not such disdain a strange thing? For she was not worthy to be his handmaid. But through his graciousness love had so vanquished him that in the end he said, "Lady, you are beleaguered, and your enemies are so strong that you will not escape their hands by any means without my help; they will put you to a shameful death after all your misery. Because of my love for you, I want to take the battle upon myself and deliver you from those who seek your death. However, I know that among them I shall receive my death-wound, and I will do so with all my heart, to gain your heart. So now I beseech you, for the love which I have made known to you, that you will at least love me after this deed, when I am dead, if you will not when I am alive." The king did all this: he delivered her from all her enemies and was outrageously ill-treated himself, and eventually slain; by a miracle he rose from the dead to life. Was not this lady from the stock of a wicked race, if she did not love him after this above all things?

This king is Jesus, the Son of God, who in this way wooed our souls, which the devil had besieged; and, like a noble suitor, after many messengers and many acts of kindness he came himself to give proof of his love, and showed by his chivalry that he was worthy to be loved, as knights used to do at one time: he fought in a tournament, and for the love of his beloved had a shield in the battle, like a valiant knight, pierced on either side. His shield, which concealed his Godhead, was his precious body that was spread on the cross: broad like a shield at the top across his outstretched arms, and narrow beneath, since one foot, as many people think, was placed over the other.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

That is so cool!