Devotion - May 7, Resurrection

[Psalms 31-35; Proverbs 7; 1 Peter 3:18-22]

I've had a longing for poetry lately, and remembered one of my favorite poems from Denise Levertov. Since we are still in Easter season, I'll share it with you this morning.

Levertov is reflecting on the traditional 'Harrowing of Hell' -- the rescue of the souls who died before Jesus' birth, an event referred to in the reading from 1 Peter. And here is why I love this poem. I am so comfortable in flesh and blood, that my default is to return to creature comforts. Yet here Levertov imagines Jesus who naturally is spirit returning to resurrection -- the burden of taking on flesh and blood once again for us ("his mortal flesh lit from within now and aching for home").  Do we connect the longing for safety from death as the longing to be at home in eternal life?

I also love the stanza, "All these He will swiftly lead to the Paradise road: they are safe."  Praying for the eternal safety of all -- that Jesus harrow our times.

Ikon: The Harrowing of Hell
Down through the tomb's inward arch
He has shouldered out into Limbo
to gather them, dazed, from dreamless slumber:
the merciful dead, the prophets,
the innocents just His own age and those
unnumbered others waiting here
unaware, in an endless void He is ending
now, stooping to tug at their hands,
to pull them from their sarcophagi,
dazzled, almost unwilling. Didmas,
neighbor in death, Golgotha dust
still streaked on the dried sweat of his body
no one had washed and anointed, is here,
for sequence is not known in Limbo;
the promise, given from cross to cross
at noon, arches beyond sunset and dawn.
All these He will swiftly lead
to the Paradise road: they are safe.
That done, there must take place that struggle
no human presumes to picture:
living, dying, descending to rescue the just
from shadow, were lesser travails
than this: to break
through earth and stone of the faithless world
back to the cold sepulchre, tearstained
stifling shroud; to break from them
back into breath and heartbeat, and walk
the world again, closed into days and weeks again,
wounds of His anguish open, and Spirit
streaming through every cell of flesh
so that if mortal sight could bear
to perceive it, it would be seen
His mortal flesh was lit from within, now,
and aching for home. He must return,
first, in Divine patience, and know
hunger again, and give
to humble friends the joy
of giving Him food—fish and a honeycomb.
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