As we come to the third sunday in Lent I offer again my meditation, in sonnet form, on the third temptation of Christ in the wilderness, following Luke’s narrative.
If the first two temptations in the wilderness were in some sense ‘obvious’; the temptation to mere physical satisfaction of appetite, and the temptation to worldly success and power, then the third temptation is subtle and dark, all the darker for pretending to a kind of light, or enlightenment. The third temptation takes place on the ‘pinnacle of the Temple’ on the height of religious experience and achievement. What could be wrong with that? But the best things, turned bad, are the worst things of all. A ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ life can be riddled with pride and a sense of distinction, judging or looking down on others , despising God’s good creation! Such a twisted religion does more damage in the world then any amount simple indulgence or gratification by sensual people. Thanks be to God that in resisting this temptation to spiritual loftiness and display, Jesus shows his solidarity once and for all with all of us, trusting himself to our flesh and blood so that we can trust our flesh and blood to him. He does not look down on us but looks up with the humble eyes of the child of Bethlehem.
This sonnet is part of my collection Sounding the Seasons published by Canterbury Press and available directly from them and also from Amazon and Blackwells Bookshops
This sonnet is also part of ‘Temptations ‘an amazing chamber opera by Rhiannon Randle
The Full Libretto is here: Temptations – final libretto
Here is the sound cloud recording: Temptations
For a youtube film of the opera see this previous post
The picture above is by Gustave Dore and the one below by Margot Krebs Neale. as always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.
On the Pinnacle
‘Temples and spires are good for looking down from;
You stand above the world on holy heights,
Here on the pinnacle, above the maelstrom,
Among the few, the true, unearthly lights.
Here you can breathe the thin air of perfection
And feel your kinship with the lonely star,
Above the shadow and the pale reflection
Here you can know for certain who you are.
The world is stalled below, but you could move it
If they could know you as you are up here
Of course they’ll doubt, but here’s your chance to prove it
Angels will bear you up, so have no fear….’
‘I was not sent to look down from above
It’s fear that sets these tests and proofs, not Love.’