Putting words in His mouth

by , under church, readings

I must have been sleeping through last year’s (and earlier) Royal Hours of Good Friday, or perhaps it was my particular awareness of the God-nature of Christ, but I couldn’t stand this in the Third Hour:

As you were dragged to the Cross, Lord, you cried out thus: For what work do you wish to crucify me, O Jews? Because I braced the paralytic? Because I raised the dead from sleep? I healed the woman with an issue of blood, I took pity on the woman of Canaan. For what work do you wish to slay me, O Jews? But, transgressors, you will see Christ whom now you pierce.

I’m used to angels crying out the most outrageous things in liturgical texts, but I can’t imagine Christ crying out all of that. In the version we sang He was already on the cross, which made it even worse because we know what He said on the cross– the most grievous thing being Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.

It’s not the sentiment itself I gall at, because I have no trouble at all with this:

What was it, Judas, that made you into the betrayer of the Saviour? Did he separate you from the choir of the Apostles? Did he deprive you of the gift of healings? When he supped with them, did he thrust you from the table? When he washed the others’ feet, did he despise yours? Oh of how many good things have you become forgetful! Your ungrateful intent is condemned, while his measureless long-suffering is proclaimed, and his great mercy.

That doesn’t put words in Christ’s mouth, at least.

Another one, from the Sixth Hour:

Thus says the Lord to the Jews, ‘My people, what have I done to you? Or in what have I wearied you? I gave light to your blind, I cleansed your lepers, I set upright a man lying on a bed. My people, what have I done to you, and how have you repaid me? Instead of the manna gall; instead of the water vinegar; instead of loving me, you have nailed me to a cross. I can endure no longer; I will call my nations, and they will glorify me, with the Father and the Spirit; and I shall grant them eternal life.

This is the unspecified “the Jews” that gets me in some of the actual Gospels too. Which Jews? The chief priests, scribes, elders and Pharisees, okay, probably goading the already excited populace. But Jesus Himself was a Jew and so were all of his disciples and many of his followers. And of course, most of the people who turned against him; it was in the Holy Land after all, under Roman occupation but inhabited mostly by Jews. And Christ does call the Jews as well as the “nations” — probably the Gentiles; our translation says “heathens” — and indeed everybody who will listen.