“You, my God, lonesome man,
Love’s bitten tongue
Heaven’s incredible wound”
(Vassar Miller, 1924-1998).
One can say that, on the cross, Christ bit his tongue, as he restrained himself from cursing both his enemies who were insulting him & his faithless disciples who abandoned him. (Do I not also bite my tongue especially when I try to restrain myself from unnecessarily hurting somebody with my words?)
Most of all, Jesus restrained himself from cursing his Father, whose sheer silence & seeming absence at Calvary was Christ’s last & most difficult temptation.
Christ’s last cry on the cross was inscrutable (Mark 15:37) like that of somebody with a severely bitten tongue. Yet this last cry & breath tore the curtain of the temple from top to bottom (15:38) & confirmed the destruction of an institution that no longer could bear fruits of justice & mercy (11:12-21). It was also a cry “for those who hunger & thirst for God’s Reign of justice & peace” (Megan McKenna).
The tempted Christ, the naked Adam on the cross, kept faith in the loving Father’s plan of service in suffering & thus transformed the cruel cross into the new tree of knowledge, power, justice & life.
Every Christian’s cross, whether small or big, is the burning bush of Christ’s faithful presence in each moment.
This is beautifully expressed in the following lines from Vassar Miller’s poem, “A Duller Moses”:
“On time’s bramble bush impaling me
Each moment is a thorn aflame with God
Burning within, without me night & day.”
“I tremble dreaming between sleep & sleep
That He, both radiance & incendiary,
In my heart lies as on the cross He lay
(Which bed is fouler?), making my bone-heap –
Oh, monstrous miracle! – God’s sanctuary.”
With the breath & cry of “Love’s bitten tongue,” Christ on the cross creates a living temple in the believer’s heart, where echo the cries of brothers & sisters suffering with their crosses & hungering for divine justice & peace.