On its 400th anniversary, what better poem to choose today than John Donne's "Good Friday, 1613: Riding Westward." While his body travels west, his mind and soul look toward Easter. There are echoes of Ignatian meditation in his attempts to see with the mind's eye what the mind itself cannot comprehend. Yet the sheer weight of imagery in the spectacle of Christ's death is overwhelming. He prays to be made worthy to turn, and see.
Let man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,The intelligence that moves, devotion is;And as the other spheres, by being grownSubject to foreign motion, lose their own,And being by others hurried every day,Scarce in a year their natural form obey;Pleasure or business, so, our souls admitFor their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.There I should see a Sun by rising set,And by that setting endless day beget.But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,Sin had eternally benighted all.Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not seeThat spectacle of too much weight for me.Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die;What a death were it then to see God die?It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.Could I behold those hands, which span the polesAnd tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?Could I behold that endless height, which isZenith to us and our antipodes,Humbled below us? or that blood, which isThe seat of all our soul's, if not of His,Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was wornBy God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn ?If on these things I durst not look, durst IOn His distressed Mother cast mine eye,Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thusHalf of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,They're present yet unto my memory,For that looks towards them; and Thou look'st towards me,O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.I turn my back to thee but to receiveCorrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,Burn off my rust, and my deformity;Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.