A Liturgy of The Rood

Good Friday 2024, 4pm, Bewcastle. Outside around the Bewcastle Cross (or in the church if the weather is inclement), a service of meditation listening to a reading of the ‘Dream of the Rood’. It will probably take around 15 mins to read, and will finish with a period of silence. The whole service will last about 30 minutes.  I’m not aware of this having been done before, but I’m sure it must have been.

For those who don’t know it, the Dream of the Rood has been described as ‘one of the greatest religious poems in English literature’ and is one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon poems in existence. A section of it is inscribed in runes on the Ruthwell Cross in south Dumfriesshire, not far from the Solway coast. In fact, these runes are the oldest Anglo-Saxon poetry anywhere in the world. The Ruthwell and Bewcastle crosses are closely-related sister crosses that both date from the early 8thC. It is likely that they were either inspired by the poem, or inspired the author(s) of the poem, as they are more or less contemporary with it – the close relation between them being evident through the runic engraving. The poem is about an elderly monk who dreams about the cross (the ‘rood’) in his sleep, and as he meditates the cross begins to speak to him about the events of that day. It is Anglo-Saxon Johannine theology, in that creation speaks of God’s presence to those who pray, and the colour, holiness, gore, majesty, wonder and awe flow back and forth through the poem as the warrior Christ climbs up to mount his victory throne, which is, of course, the rood.

We will be gathered, praying around perhaps the actual cross that ‘speaks’ in the poem. If you would like to be seated outside you will need to bring your own furniture.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.bewcastlehouseofprayer.org.uk/a-liturgy-of-the-rood/

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