31 March 2010
Without a City Wall
Mrs Alexander's hymnographical ditties are easily derided, and they're certainly dated. But as we sing There is a green hill far away without a City wall I am reminded of one of the Passion sermons of S Leo the Great (I recommend all them as Passiontide readings) in which he reminds us that the Lord was not sacrificed in the one great place of the covenanted sacrifices ordained by the Father, in his Temple at Jerusalem. As that invariably readable scholar from the Orthodox Jewish tradition, Jacob Neusner, has reminded us, the 'cleansing of the Temple' can only have had one theological meaning: the supersession of the Torah sacrifices. S Leo argues that that Cross on that hill without that city wall is the Ara Mundi, the Altar of the World, of the Cosmos, where the dear Lord was crucified who died to save us all. 'All' has a flavour of Gentile-as-well-as-Jew, a point made by the Canon Romanus when it mentions the sacrifices of Righteous Abel and of Abraham our Patriarch. But I cannot help wondering if it extends to include not only the pneumatic powers but also whatever is found throughout Creation. I don't quite know how that fits in with C S Lewis's interplanetary literature, but I do keep hearing in my mind's ear Marlowe's Faustus' cry of jealous despair: See how the Blood of Christ streams through the firmament.