Looking forward to celebrating the resurrection this Sunday, this poem by George Herbert keeps ringing in my ears. As with most older writing, you have to take it slowly and let it sink in. If you do, I hope you’ll find it as beautiful as I do.
In the first four stanzas he reflects on the work week (the other six days) as toil and labor under the curse of sin but always comes back to Sunday as the day of “light” and “release.”
The fifth stanza pictures what we do on Sunday (worship & praying & preaching in the church) as forming a bracelet beautifying the bride of Christ. I love that image.
The sixth has another unforgettable image. Christ’s resurrection on that Sunday turned a dirt and stone tomb into a garden which grows herbs (perfect medicine) for our wounds.
One of the reasons I am such a George Herbert fan is his provocative use of biblical images. The seventh stanza is a great case in point. He takes the story of Samson bearing away the doors of Gaza (Judges 16:1-3) and applies it to what Christ did for us.
O day most calm, most bright
The fruit of this, the next world’s bud,
Th’ endorsement of supreme delight,
Writ by a friend, and with his blood;
The couch of time; care’s balm and bay:
The week were dark, but for thy light:
Thy torch doth show the way.
The other days and thou
Make up one man; whose face thou art,
Knocking at heaven with thy brow:
The work-days are the back-part;
The burden of the week lies there,
Making the whole to stoop and bow,
Till thy release appear.
Man had straight forward gone
To endless death: but thou dost pull
And turn us round to look on one,
Whom, if we were not very dull,
We could not choose to look on still;
Since there is no place so alone,
The which he doth not fill.
Sundays the pillars are,
On which heav’n’s palace arched lies:
The other days fill up the spare
And hollow room with vanities.
They are the fruitful beds and borders
In God’s rich garden: that is bare,
Which parts their ranks and orders.
The Sundays of man’s life,
Threaded together on time’s string,
Make bracelets to adorn the wife
Of the eternal glorious King.
On Sunday heaven’s gate stands ope;
Blessings are plentiful and rife,
More plentiful than hope.
This day my Saviour rose,
And did enclose this light for his:
That, as each beast his manger knows,
Man might not of his fodder miss.
Christ hath took in this piece of ground,
And made a garden there for those
Who want herbs for their wound.
The rest of our Creation
Our great Redeemer did remove
With the same shake, which at his passion
Did the earth and all things with it move.
As Samson bore the doors away,
Christ’s hands, though nail’d, wrought our salvation,
And did unhinge that day.
The brightness of that day
We sullied by our foul offence:
Wherefore that robe we cast away,
Having a new at his expense,
Whose drops of blood paid the full price,
That was requir’d to make us gay,
And fit for Paradise.
Thou art a day of mirth:
And where the weekdays trail on ground,
Thy flight is higher, as thy birth.
O let me take thee at the bound,
Leaping with thee from sev’n to sev’n,
Till that we both, being toss’d from earth,
Fly hand in hand to heav’n!