The opening of the poem The Agony by George Herbert speaks of the modern way of knowing: the rational scientific mode (“philosophers” = natural philosophers). Herbert says there is so much more to take into account; there is so much more to knowing. He seeks to balance, heal and re-inform our ways of knowing. To radically transform our ways of knowing, Herbert invites us to turn to Christ at the intersection of sin and love – Christ’s Passion.
Closer to home, have you noticed that churches have ways of presenting sin and love? There are churches that speak about sin and damnation. They are ready to point out sin and make love conditional. And, there are churches that speak of unconditional love and inclusion while making sin conditional. Herbert reminds us that transcendent love can only be fully understood when we come to a knowledge of our sin and the meaning of cross.
Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of the seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staff to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.
Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through ev’ry vein.
Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach, then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.