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Stavrophobia

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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I am afraid of the Cross
As a drunk is afraid of sober,
As a hypermodern dreads the sublime,
Fainting with fear and foreboding,
Premonizing what is mobilizing in the world,
For the powers of heaven will be shaken.

I am afraid of the Cross,
Tomorrow stands on the other side,
That is the Day that He has made.
Today, however, is a day I have familiarized
Down to gray:
A foretaste of Hades, a rehearsal of Hell,
A vocation in the vestibule,
Quotidian, lukewarm, but I know it well.

I am afraid of the Cross,
For the One Who plays with infinitude,
The One above all names,
Rides here, into my gray city, on an ass.
I believe, but not enough,
While the children and the stones hosanna,
My little knowledge has become a dangerous thing.
I am shot full of intellectual assents,
But I do not believe enough to work, to love,
To sense the pure,
To drive away the cynic, the sardonic,
The savant dilettante from my lips,
The arsonist that would rather curse
Than bless at the extremities of confession.

I am afraid of the Cross,
The impassive Godhead Who was acquainted with my grief,
Who co-inhered with the Second, the Son,
Whose Person is God, but Whose Nature is mine.
I did not think to be ingodded,
I merely thought I'd be let off the hook
With a get out of jail free card from Milton Bradley,
But instead,
The everlasting space, dreadful echoing, roaring loud brilliance
Groans in travail for more than parole,
Nothing less than revelation
Of theosis.
The stage is too bright, the crowd too loud,
The script too hard, the blocking too awkward,
Always calling, in italics, that I must decrease
As the Son that deceased, must rise
And increase.

I am afraid of the Cross,
For it means straight blindness at Damascus,
Pouring off my GQ colognes on proletariat podiatry,
Standing up to footnoted academics warming themselves by the fire
And staying true before the crowing at dawn,
Permitting my associates to pass me by up the corporate chart,
One on the right hand, the other on the left,
Reconfiguring my economics, to transmute a widow's penny into gold,
The alchemy of the beatitudinal poor,
Lurching out of my slumber, after four whole days
Of practicing the ways of deathworks,
And, in harsh daylight, getting unwound.

I am afraid of the Cross,
Because I am afraid of death,
But not its approximation,
Which I have embraced.
I was born to die,
And have habituated myself to its fear.

That is why, Despota, when You stood at the door and knocked,
I was not answering.
And when You rode in, on donkey astrode,
I was not waving.
For I suspected that You had elected
To change my death into life,
Necrosis to theosis.

And for that I am afraid of the Cross.

Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief,
So I might carry this palm
From Sunday till Friday,
Until brightness converts all my gray.

Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutamus.
No, that's a miss.
He is Jesus, not Julius, not that famous,
Better this:
Hail, Jesus, King of the Jews,
We who are born to die salute You.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias is an Orthodox priest and edits the Second Terrace blog.

Read the entire article on the Second Terrace website (new window will open).

Posted: 02-Apr-07



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