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The Second Sunday after Trinity

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor, AD 2004


“Come, for all things are now ready”


The last poem in George Herbert’s wonderful collection of poems called The Temple is entitled “Love (III)”.


Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

                          Guiltie of dust and sinne.

But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack

                          From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

                           If I lack’d any thing.


A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:

                           Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,

                           I cannot look on thee.


Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

                           Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame

                           Go where it doth deserve.


And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?

                           My deare, then I will serve.

You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:

                            So I did sit and eat.


The poem speaks of a feast that is at once eschatological - the heavenly banquet - and sacramental - the holy Communion.  Love – God’s love towards us in Jesus Christ - bids us “sit and eat”.  Love makes us, who are unready, ready so that we may partake.  Love makes us ready by drawing out of us the awareness of our unreadiness: the soul “guiltie of dust and sinne” - the soul as turned towards the earth, the world.  The soul as turned away from God confesses her unworthiness to be a guest in the presence of Love: “I the unkinde, ungratefull?” who “cannot look on thee”.


But love is greater than our sins and makes us worthy through our sense of unworthiness to be where Love would have us be.  The poem thus concludes:


You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:

                            So I did sit and eat.


The propers for the Second Sunday after Trinity provide a wonderful complement to the poem even as the poem provides a kind of commentary upon them, especially  in relation to the familiar cadences of the Communion service: “Come, for all things are now ready”, as we hear in the Gospel.  And yet as we pray in the service, “We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, Trusting in our own righteousness”.  For, “if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things”“and this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” , as we hear in the Epistle, for he who “keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him”.  We come trusting “in thy manifold and great mercies” knowing that “we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table”, but knowing, too, God’s greater mercy towards us.


The pattern of the poem is, fundamentally, the pattern of the spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer. It is the pattern of Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction within the larger framework of the interplay of Justification and Sanctification


There is Contrition:        “ ….my soul drew back,

                                           Guiltie of dust and sinne.”


There is Confession:      “I the unkinde, ungratefull?”,

                                           un -  “worthy to be here”:

                                           who “cannot look on thee”.


There is Satisfaction:      That he “Who made the eyes” 

                                           which our sins “have marr’d”

                                           has “bore[n] the blame” and makes us worthy to be here:

                                           “You must sit down...and taste my meat”.


There is at once Justification and Sanctification.  He “who bore the blame” signals the principle of Justification, the grace of Christ for us.  He who commands us to “sit down ... and taste my meat” signals the principle of Sanctification, the grace of Christ in us, our incorporation into the life of Christ whose Spirit in us seeks our perfection.


The pattern is wonderfully illustrated in propers for Trinity II.  We are invited to a great Supper: “Come, for all things are now ready”.  But what is our response?  “They all with one consent began to make excuse”.  We refuse the invitation.  “Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back”.  In the Gospel, we turn literally to the ground, to the beasts, to carnal affection - in short; to the affairs and preoccupations of our lives as removed from the feast.


But the master of the house sends his servant “to bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt and the blind” - all those whom the world might not think worthy to be there or, at least, able to be there.  Yet, even that is not enough, for still “there is room”.  And so the servant is commanded “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper”.


God invites us to himself.  Our excuses are our refusings of his grace in one way or another.  Our excuses absent us from the presence of God; we are empty where he would have us filled - in him and with him.  We are empty because we are so pre-occupied with our own concerns.  And such, really, is “dust and sinne”.


It might seem that our excuses must frustrate God’s will.  But that cannot be so.  We can only frustrate ourselves.  God will have his house filled with those whom he makes ready - bringing them in who could not come on their own, compelling them to come in who would not come any other way.  But the higher way is the way of love, the way of invitation.  This is the point which Herbert would especially remind us.  It is wanted that we should come willingly.


Those whom God invites are those whom he would have come willingly and freely - out of love - those of whom it may truly be said: “Blessed are they that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God”.  To refuse the invitation is to deny that love.  To be present undiscerning the quality of that love is to be absent from it, too.  To be sure, our refusal of God’s grace is also the freedom of our will - our freedom to be unfree.  For to be freed to our preoccupations is to be enslaved to ourselves - to the misery of our self-will, to the condemnation of our own hearts.  We are free to condemn ourselves: “let my shame go where it doth deserve”.  But this is not what God wants for us: “And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?”  Nor is it what he wants us to want. “But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack...drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning...”.  And so by parable and by instruction, he must convict our hearts and illumine our understanding.


The Gospel shows us the consequence of our refusal of God’s grace so as to convict us and awaken us to respond in love to Love’s bidding.  The Epistle reminds us ever so wonderfully that “if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts”.  As the poem says, “Who made the eyes but I?”…"and know you not ...who bore the blame?”.  The answer is the same.  It is Love.  “Love took my hand”.


Together the Epistle and Gospel encourage us to respond freely and willingly to God’s gracious invitation.  He does not, after all, have to invite us.  But “love bade me welcome...”.  It is his will for us that he does invite us so that his will - his love - can abide in us.  As John Donne, too, puts it: “God does not save us without our wills, but only through our wills”.


The pattern of Contrition, Confession, and Satisfaction in the poem is the pattern of the spirituality of the Prayer Book, shaping our wills through the understanding of God’s Word. Through Contrition and Confession we are called into the presence of Christ who makes us worthy to be here.  And so, in every way,

“You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:

                              So I did sit and eat.”


It is our only and ultimate Satisfaction, all because “Love bade me welcome”.


“Come, for all things are now ready”