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Friday, 4 December 2015

Alternative Nine Lessons & Carols

Last year I wrote a poetic meditation drawing on the thinking of René Girard in interpreting the Bible readings traditionally used in services of Nine Lessons and Carols:

Nine Lessons

Genesis 3: 8–19

Hard labour in birth and work, sweat on our brow,
dirt on our hands. Thorns and thistles to prick and sting,
like death from a serpent's tongue,
till we return to the ground,
ashes to dust and dust to ashes.

Genesis 22: 15–18

A sense of sacrifice required;
the death of children appeasing the divine.
An alternative is found - ram caught in thicket,
wool held by thorns. Animals become
the scapegoats for our sins.

Isaiah 9: 2; 6–7

Light in darkness promised
through the hard labour of the birth of a child.
A child bearing peace and goodwill,
bringing justice and righteousness
without end and without measure.

Isaiah 11: 1–3a; 4a; 6–9

A little child leading us to reconciliation.
From nature red in tooth and claw -
survival of the fittest - to peaceful co-existence.
Carnivores to herbivores, the drawing of the sting
from the serpent's tongue.

Luke 1: 26–35; 38

Highly favoured as the Spirit overshadows.
A virgin birth - subverting patriarchy -
of a son who will not marry or have blood offspring.
The saying of 'yes' to God opening
the way of the family of God to one and all.

Luke 2: 1; 3–7

No room for the Lord of life, Prince of peace.
Space shared with animals kept for sustenance;
the sacrifices of existence and forgiveness.
Born into poverty; the struggle for survival
that this child will one day redeem.

Luke 2: 8–16

Angelic announcement of peace and goodwill
come in the form of the child found
by night workers, swaddled and lying in a manger.
His mother ponders these things -
annunciation, nativity, incarnation - in her heart.

Matthew 2: 1–12

Star following Magi look for the Prince of Peace
in the heart of power and opulence
only to find him in obscurity and humility.
Gifts given prefigure his divinity and sacrifice, the servant King
who, in birth and death, gives his life for others.

John 1: 1–14

Creative word now created, enfleshed, incarnated.
Divine life flowing in and through this child.
Light in darkness, revealing our passion
for power, position and personal gain.
In poverty, a counterpoint is born - compassion.

Giles Fraser, in the wake of the death of Girard and the Paris attacks, recently summarised Girard's thinking:

'The anthropologist René Girard died earlier this month, at home in California. A Frenchman, he did not live to see the latest violence in his home country. But, in a sense, he had been working on it his entire professional life. For no modern thinker has done more to understand the self-repeating patterns through which violence flows. And there can be no more disturbing conclusion than his, especially now: that violence is a form of copying, that violence is contagious, and that, as he put it: “Violence is like a raging fire that feeds on the very objects intended to smother its flames.”'

'Girard’s answer to mimetic violence is that we must break the cycle by refusing to mirror our enemies. Indeed, his rejection of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not hand-wringing pacifism – it is bloody-minded, hard-nosed defiance; a refusal to be defined by the violent other, a refusal to answer back in kind.'

'Girard goes on to argue that the most vociferous critic of religion turns out to be a Jewish prophet called Jesus of Nazareth. Girard understands the ministry of Jesus to be that of deliberately standing in the place of the innocent victim thus to reveal the profound wickedness of the whole scapegoat mechanism. And as he is strung up to die, the violence of religion is exposed in all its gruesome destructiveness. Forget Dawkins or Harris – according to Girard the greatest critic of religion was Jesus himself.'


1 comment:

Victoria E. Jones said...

What beautiful reflections! Your words really draw me into the narrative and create links that I hadn't considered before.