Holy Saturday, April 20
On January 21 Robert sends a request for a reflection of “about 350 words” due by February 15 on Job 19:21-27a. I say to myself something like, “Job, great story, wonderful poetry, Hollywood ending,” and reply, “I’ll be glad to try to do it.”
On examination it turns out that Robert has asked for a reflection on a passage that is full of problems. The passage begins with a monumental “humble brag” by the narrator who must know that his genius is so well appreciated that his words will inevitably be “inscribed in a book” and “graven in the rock forever.” Here is the first part of the passage:
“Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
For the hand of God has touched me!
Why do you, like God, pursue me?
Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?
Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
O that with an iron pen and lead
They were graven in the rock forever!”
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
This is followed by a statement of such beauty, comfort, and importance to Christianity that it is used to begin the funeral rites of the Episcopal and Roman Churches. Yet the statement is one of confidence in a “Redeemer” whose birth would not occur for hundreds of years. If one has faith, the statement anticipates the birth of Christ. If one does not have faith it makes no sense at all.
And at last he will stand upon the earth:
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
Then from my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see on my side,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
The final line:
My heart faints within me,
seems to be left dangling by itself until one speculates that, miraculously, the writer’s heart faints at the realization that, for hundreds of future years, his lines will touch the hearts of the faithful when they solemnize the deaths of their friends.