Christus Invictus: Behind the Verse

Update 2015-05-16: I just came across a well-written post–“Invictus” Redeemed–about the poem and Dorothy Day’s response to it from many years ago. Day’s poem is a good read but the author writes quite well on why it is the original poem isn’t all that inspiring or reasonable when you get into the details.

Christus Invictus: Behind the Verse

In a previous post, I published a poem entitled Christus Invictus. That poem was based on and inspired by William Ernest Henley’s Invictus. Although the Wikipedia article doesn’t cover it, Henley’s Invictus was a “deathbed affirmation of his atheism” [author’s note: not literally, since he wrote it young when he was sick and lived many more years but true per his apparent convictions later in life]. I think most people know the poem even if they don’t know the author or remember the poem in its entirety.

I was piqued in the last two weeks by a Ravi Zacharias podcast mentioning the poem, used in contrast to his Christian message. It’s a good poem, well written, realistic, inspiring, even, but I knew the poem lifted man above God – and, as is my bent, I can not abide what I perceive as foolishness. Thus, Christus Invictus is my response to Henley’s Invictus attempting to show the vastly different perspective of one suffering, as Henley did, yet living with the hope of glory in the salvation of Jesus Christ.

I had a few goals in mind when revising his poem. The first was to respond in verse, speaking on the same themes, but from the perspective of salvation. That was a driving force. A second goal was to show how changing so very little of the poem could result in such a different attitude, pained yet joyful, humble yet victorious. Another goal was to avoid sugar-coating the Christian experience. God does not promise unending earthly happiness. In fact, He promises the opposite. Hence, the poem is left untouched in many areas to retain and openly admit the reality Henley experienced and wrote about.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank, in Him, Jesus Christ
For my redeemed and purchased soul.

Henley had it right with “Out of the night that covers me, \ Black as the pit from pole to pole,” and so I left it as-is. There’s no use arguing against this Fallen world and that evil is afoot here.

Where Henley originally wrote, “I thank whatever gods may be \ For my unconquerable soul,” I knew this was disingenuous. There is a God and He has been saying the same thing to us for all history: Follow me. Just mentioning God, however, didn’t oppose all of the original intent. I needed to speak to Jesus Christ and His act on the cross that is salvation to every man, woman and child, each of us “our redeemed and purchased soul.”

In the fell-hard clutch of circumstance
I have sore-winced and cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of flagrance
My head is bloody and low-bowed.

Note the change from Henley’s “fell clutch” to “fell-hard clutch.” This is not an attempt to remove any of the original meaning but actually a poetic alteration to match the rhythm of the third line’s altered nine syllables.

Henley writes, “I have not winced nor cried aloud,” but he and I both know no human goes through this life without pain and sorrow. I simply admit as much. This line, too, was altered to match the third line’s altered rhythm.

I wanted to change Henley’s insinuation of random chance when he wrote “Under the bludgeonings of chance” and so altered the last word to “flagrance.” The truth is there is something going on in this world and there is more to the events that occur, to our circumstances, and to our choices, than simple random chance. This is the change that necessitated the “fell-hard” and “sore-winced” rewording in the first and second lines.

Sheer contrast is needed in the fourth line to provide force to the incredible difference of response one should expect from one saved from eternal death. Henley’s original, “My head is bloody, but unbowed,” needed a response that indicated an alternative to the natural reaction of men to the evils of this world. I did not want to diminish the reality of pain, however, and so “My head is bloody” remains.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the Shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

This verse is unique. There is absolutely no change to wording. I felt it was all accurate, fair and true. The observant reader will notice, though, that there is a single difference: The “S” in “Shade” has been capitalized where it was lowercase in the original. Where the original implies an insignificant nothingness, I wished to simply and subtly convey a terrifying somethingness, that which is the only thing left when one’s fate is not with God in the eternal.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
He is the captain of my soul.

Here, we come to Henley’s climactic verse of self-statement and self-direction. Most people know the last two lines of this verse even if they know nothing else about the context of those words.

Henley’s first lines are true and so left unchanged. The Christian admits God’s Way is straight, narrow, and difficult to maintain. The Christian admits God’s punishments are strong but know His mercy is greater and, His sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, ultimate in securing our souls.

And now Henley rings out at his strongest, his mightiest. His conclusion, affirmation and pronouncement: “I am the master of my fate: \ I am the captain of my soul.” And it is here that the strongest, mightiest contrast needs to be made.

Henley was right and Henley was wrong. He is very right in saying, “I am the master of my fate.” A man may choose, indeed, to accept or reject what is offered him. He may choose to accept Jesus’s salvation and he may choose to reject the same. Man is the master of his fate in the end.

C.S. Lewis put it in this way: It is either “Thy Will be done” or “Thy will be done.” We say to God, “Thy Will be done,” or God says to us, “Thy will be be done.”

Henley’s closing needs change in order to present the true distinction of the  faithful. The Christian understands he has chosen to accept what Jesus has done. The Christian understands that in so doing he makes not himself but Jesus the very captain of his soul.

I am the master of my fate:
He is the captain of my soul.

Christus Invictus is my response to Henley’s Invictus showing a Christian perspective on the same themes. I hoped to show the incredible difference of perspective of one who is going through suffering, as Henley did in his life, but who also lived with the hope of salvation in Jesus Christ.

I even had the thought that I was “sticking up for God” which is a childish thing to think for a Christian. The Almighty needs no champion but Himself; And He already came in the form of the Son, Jesus Christ, who hung on a cross for our sins, died, and rose again, and conquered everything.

Nevertheless, God is due His rightful honour and glory. As Joseph said, in Genesis 50:20, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” I make no claim that this is such a case. That God intended me to do this, I do not make the claim. As Henley is created in the image of God, however, I can see the good within his writing and so wish to see it redeemed, in the end, to the glory of God alone.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Misericordia, Soli Deo Gloria

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May this season bring you happiness and joy in Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death!

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May this season bring you happiness and joy in Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death!

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,

33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Luke 1:26-33

Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, came to save the sick in sin like you and me.

The good news is joyously simple…

16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

A Religious Experience

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; \ Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: \ For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; \ His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, \ On earth is not his equal.

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I have a serious faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross but they know also that I haven’t regularly gone to church in a number of years. I don’t have anything against church. I’m sure my absence is due to a few psychological issues and not finding a church that “clicked.” Well, this past Sunday I attended Bayfair in Pickering for the second time in as many weeks. The praise and worship was good. The pastor turned out to be quite biblically sound and much deeper than I thought he was before. But what happened in the closing hymn was something that I have rarely felt.

The (very) young worship team leader introduced the hymn as a very old one, 500 years old “but still good”. That hymn was A Mighty Fortress is our God (lyrics; youtube). Surprisingly, the young worship team sang through all of the verses and delivered excellently. The result was two hundred or so believers singing powerful doctrine together in unity. You could sense something special was occurring right then and there.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Selah.

An Observation on Justice in the Aftermath of Atrocities

When one really thinks about the things that ordinary, average citizens went along with during the Nazi period of Germany, we begin to realize that we are lucky that we were not German at that point in time. We know we would most likely have fared no more ethically than those accused and convicted. And, yet, even knowing our own guilt, avoided only chance, we understand we must forge ahead and and prosecute these people to the full extent of the law, even to death.

When one really thinks about the things that ordinary, average citizens went along with during the Nazi period of Germany, we begin to realize that we are lucky that we were not German at that point in time. We know we would most likely have fared no more ethically than those accused and convicted. And, yet, even knowing our own guilt, escaped only by chance, we understand we must forge ahead and prosecute these people to the full extent of the law, even to death.

That’s the rub. How can one man convict, imprison and even execute another man knowing that, if in the exact same situation, he is just as guilty as the other.

We know, innately, however that the crime, committed by ourselves or others, must be punished regardless of circumstances. There is no mercy for those who, by frailty of mind, succumbed to terrible acts. We do not recognize the defense that, having swapped places, would we have done what the accused had done? We know we mostly likely would have but we understand that can have no bearing on the judgement delivered.

We judge ourselves in judging others; but escape the punishment delivered to the convicted.

Therefore, consider again the justice of God whose perfection can not abide imperfection as we can not abide atrocity.

Consider again the mercy given to us in Jesus Christ which forgives all atrocities.

And consider again what we know to be right in dealing with human atrocities – in the light of what we think we know to be right understanding our own sin.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to one and all and may the light of the bright and morning star bless and keep you and yours.

Merry Christmas to one and all and may the light of the bright and morning star bless and keep you and yours.

1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:  “I will send my messenger ahead of you,  who will prepare your way”
3 “a voice of one calling in the desert,  ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,  make straight paths for him.’ ”
4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of  repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and  he ate locusts and wild honey.
7 And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs  of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:1-8

That man is Jesus Christ, God’s Son and yet one with God, who came to earth, was born of a virgin and whose birthday we celebrate this season.

The good news is simple. God has been telling us one thing for all history: Follow me.

16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

The Mire of Miracles

Third Day’s song Carry My Cross has an interesting lyric: I’ve come here with a mission \ And soon I’ll give my life for this world \ I’m praying in the garden \ And I’m looking for a miracle.

Third Day‘s song Carry My Cross has an interesting lyric:

I’ve come here with a mission
And soon I’ll give my life for this world
I’m praying in the garden
And I’m looking for a miracle

A reference to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested. He would be put on trial and condemned to crucifixion. Jesus’s words,

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus was asking God for a miracle. I never considered that verse in such a profound light until the moment I heard that song. Jesus was asking for a miracle, one that would not be granted.

Not even Jesus, God’s own Son, was saved by a miracle although none but Him has ever been worthy of it.

When tragedy strikes, pray with all your heart for a miracle.

When it arrives, praise God.

When it doesn’t arrive, praise God all the more, for a miracle withheld once saved your soul.

Selah.

Welcome to Selah.ca

And when we know the truth I think we will see that God is given all the glory because He has done something more incredible and more beautiful than we could have ever thought possible.

This is the second post of my blog and I want to highlight the importance of the first.

The first post in this blog is special. It’s a dedication of sorts. None of my own words are in that post and its purpose is to glorify God and to publish again how His Son taught us to live. It sets the tone that will remain the background to all that follows and, ever and anon, the foreground.

I consider myself a conservative, fundamental Christian but the posts to follow will, without doubt, attract resentment, anger, correction, arguments, and all manner of backlash, from those who also think themselves conservative and even from those whom the former would call liberal.

Regardless, know always that I want the truth.

In days past, I put myself in the world’s line of fire saying to myself that if God’s Word is worth believing than God’s Word will prove itself. In many places I accepted the heat of the skepticism about the bible. I went looking for answers and consistently found rational satisfaction in the answers I uncovered and was able to respond with.

I learned a number of things through all of this:

  • I learned God loves all of us
  • I learned I can read my bible and google anything of concern to me or someone else
  • I learned I can find someone else who has had the same question and has published answers or references someone else who has
  • I learned the Bible can stand up for itself and stand up to intense analysis and criticism and does so with grace and compassion
  • I learned we have built up a religion, rules, and rituals, where there is no need for any
  • I learned we have done this because God is beyond full understanding and we have tried to understand him on our own terms and within our own limits
  • I learned God loves all of us even when we put Him on trial
  • I learned God is amazing beyond all words, poems, songs, theories and philosophies
  • I learned that to consider what God has begun with us, His unending, unerring, unrelenting story through us, and His plan to redeem each of us to Himself, us who didn’t deserve at all – I learned that to consider all of this is to know that you have not even begun to know Him.
  • I learned God loves all of us in spite of everything we have done to spurn Him
  • I learned, therefore, to approach Him as a child, discovering all things as new.

So, as God wills for all that may follow, know that if what I say is controversial, outlandish, outrageous or heretical, I want only the truth.

I want the truth.

I want to glorify God.

I want to show you the bible that declares itself without error.

I want the truth.

And when we know the truth I think we will see that God is given all the glory because He has done something more incredible and more beautiful than we could have ever thought possible.