I love Lenten hymns. Like Christmas carols, they are made extra special because their appropriateness is season bound and lasts for such a short time. I relish their somber and melancholy feel and like to feel the heft of the words sink into my bones.

In theory, anyway.

When it comes down to it, though, I’d much rather be a bystander in the suffering, thankyouverymuch. But not like a St. John at the foot of the cross kind of bystander. Nooo, I prefer the role of Peter, hearing about it from others and getting to heap on the guilt to make up for my absence. THAT’S how I take my sad and suffering.

You’d think I’d know by now that what I want is never how it happens. How again and again we are invited deeper into barrenness and abandonment.


Aren’t we lucky? (The boys are learning to detect sarcasm. This would be flagged.)

Back to the hymns. . .

Tuesday night I hobbled to the bathroom and rallied some energy for a shower. I shook waiting for the water to warm and this line came belting into my mind:

O agony and dying!

If I had the reserves, I would have smiled. “Lord, you are fun-ny.” I admitted wryly. I knew I was being teased.

The line is from one of my favorite hymns, O Sacred Head Surrounded. At Cathedral we sing it as we reverence the Cross on Good Friday. It is bare, no accompaniment and full of “bitter anguish.”

It feels good on that day.

But Tuesday? It didn’t feel so good on Tuesday. It felt a little like dry pride in my mouth, having laughed off Mama Syd’s admonition for me to get rest and having the GALL to claim I had been the most healthy and how Gail was glad I hadn’t gotten mastitis. It felt like flaking anger after the way I had huffed at Jac late Monday night for being short with the kid who woke up while I was sitting up with Gemma on the couch. It felt like crushing laziness for my lax attitude with my Lenten fasts. It felt like hot humility for having bewailed a “wasted weekend” with a house full of sickies and then being the one who could not move or function and needed care. My fever soared, everything hurt and I could not remember ever being so sick. It WAS agony and, I was sure, dying.

There was dying. Dying to myself, to my to-do lists, to my control, to my anxiety about Jac being taken from work. There was nothing I could do in my weakness. But, as Scripture says and life rings out, in that weakness, things were made whole. I gave what little I had left and let God do the rest. In my lucid moments, I offered it up for my Lenten prayer partner and asked for grace and strength for Jac. Then I opened my fists and let everything go and waited. Our Lord never fails.

It took two full days in bed, antibiotics, loads of Gemma feeding, ibuprofen and water, but my body is on the mend. My soul is, too. Quieted, reenergized, refocused. I’m ready to sing and enter in.

O Sacred Head surrounded,
by crown of piercing thorn!
O bleeding head, so wounded,
reviled and put to scorn!
Our sins have marred the glory
of thy most holy face,
yet angel hosts adore thee
and tremble as they gaze

I see thy strength and vigor
all fading in the strife,
and death with cruel rigor,
bereaving thee of life;
O agony and dying!
O love to sinners free!
Jesus, all grace supplying,
O turn thy face on me.

In this thy bitter passion,
Good Shepherd, think of me
with thy most sweet compassion,
unworthy though I be:
beneath thy cross abiding
for ever would I rest,
in thy dear love confiding,
and with thy presence blest.
– Henry Williams Baker

My favorite reflection from the week can be found here. It’s beautiful. I read it to the kids and asked them if they stunk yet. Max said “I think I’m supposed to, but not yet. I’m working on it.”