Tag: dream of the rood

A Liturgy of The Rood

Benefice of Bewcastle, Stapleton, and Kirklinton with Hethersgill

Bewcastle Cross – Good Friday

This is the liturgy we used around the Bewcastle Cross on Good Friday for the first time in 2024, which includes a recital of the Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Dream of The Rood’. However, it almost certainly isn’t the first time it has been read around this cross – I suspect it was recited on Good Friday every year in the 700s when the monastic community existed at Bewcastle. The liturgy is reproduced here for those who might be interested in praying through it themselves.

A recording of the service (excluding the hymn), including the reading of ‘The Dream of the Rood’ can be found here:

The Service

The Welcome

Welcome to this ancient and holy place where, for over 1300 years, our Christian forebears have gathered to worship, meditate on the cross, and pray. Today we join with them.

On Good Friday, the Church focuses on commemorating the Passion and crucifixion of Jesus. Since the fourth century, the ritual of the Veneration of the Cross has been part of this tradition. During the service, we listen to readings that focus on the events of this day, and towards the end, you are invited, if you wish, to come forward and show reverence to the cross, the climax of our salvation, perhaps by touching it, kissing it, bowing before it, or just sitting silently at its feet.

The encounter we have with God on Good Friday is the most profound of the year and the act of veneration one of those moments when we respond in a very individual, personal way. Today we meet God at his most vulnerable and most powerful – a day of paradox in which defeat is really victory and where one man’s death leads to life for all.

Let us pray.
O thou whose supreme devotion did not refuse the burden of bearing crucifixion,
by whom the sins of the human race were taken away as so heavy a burden,
when you were uplifted by your own arms like a pure lamb to sacrifice:
I beg you to extend the hand of your mercy towards my sins,
and to erase all my crimes completely,
O noble and resolute Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen

Behold the Cross on which was hung the Saviour of the world.
We adore thee, O Christ, and we bless thee because by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the World.
Amen.

Hymn

We pray together
O Height of humility and Fortitude of the week,
By your humility you have raised up our fallen world.
You permitted the cruel hands of sinners to raise you on the rood.
I offer thanks, and pray that, by this, you will lead me from all wilfulness.
Draw me from earth to heaven:
Do not forsake your lost sheep, but carry me in your arms
that I may be found within your fold,
blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Gospel Reading

Let us pray
Almighty God, Lord Jesus Christ,
You stretched out your pure hands on the rood for us,
And redeemed us with your holy and precious blood;
Enable me so to feel and understand this mystery
That I may attain true repentance and unfailing perseverance
All the days of my life.
Amen.

The Dream of The Rood

Listen! I will tell the best of dreams
Which I dreamed, the middle of one night
While, far and wide, all speech-bearers slept.
It was as though I saw a wondrous tree
Towering in the sky, suffused with light.
Brightest of beams; and all that beacon was
Cased with gold. Jewels studded lovingly
At its earthen base, just as there were five
Upon the cross-beam: all those beautiful through eternity
Beheld there the angel of the Lord.
No felon’s gallows that, but holy spirits,
Mankind throughout the Earth, and all this marvellous creation, 
Gazed on the glorious tree of victory.
And I with sins was stained, with guilt stricken. 
I saw this tree of glory brightly shine
In gorgeous raiment, all bedecked with gold.
The Ruler’s tree was with gems 
Worthily adorned; yet I could see beyond that gold
The ancient wretched strife, when first
Upon its right side it began to bleed.
I was with sorrows all disturbed, affrighted
At the stunning vision. I saw that brilliant beacon
Then change its clothes and hues; sometimes it was
Bedewed with blood and drenched with flowing gore, 
At other times it was with treasure all adorned.
So there I lay gazing on the Saviour’s tree,
In spirit grieving for a long, long while,
Until I heard it utter sounds. The best
Of woods began to speak these words to me:

“It was long ago – yet I remember still –
That I was hewn down at the grove’s end,
Stripped from my roots. Strong foes there took me,
Command me hold aloft their felons,
Made me a spectacle. These men bore me
Upon their shoulders, till on a mount they set me,
A host of fiends there fixed me.
And then saw I the Lord of all mankind
Hasten with eager zeal that he might upon me
Mount. I durst not against God’s word
Bow down or break, when I saw tremble all
The surface of the earth. I might then
Have felled those foes, yet stood I fast.
The young hero (who God Almighty was)
Disrobed himself, resolute in heart and strong.
He climbed the lofty gallows-tree,
Bold in the sight of many, 
For his intent was mankind to redeem.
I trembled as the warrior clasped me.
But still I dared not to the earth bend down,
Fall to the ground. Upright I there stood firm,
A rood was I, raised up; I held on high
The noble King, the Lord of heaven above.
I durst not stoop. With dark nails they pierced me;
The scars still clearly seen upon me,
The open wounds of malice. Yet for him
I dared not harm them. They mocked us both together.
All sodden with blood was I,
Which from his side poured out, when forth
He sent his spirit. Full many a cruel fate
On that hill have I endured.
I saw the God of hosts stretched grimly out.
Darkness covered the Ruler’s corpse with clouds,
His brilliant brightness; shadows passed across,
Black in the darkness. Weep all creation,
Bewail the King's death; Christ was on the cross.
And yet saw I men coming from afar,
Hastening to the Prince. I beheld it all.
With sorrows I was grievously oppressed,
Yet willingly I bent to those men's hands,
Humbly. They took up there Almighty God,
And from the heavy torment lifted him.
The battle-warriors left me standing steaming in his blood,
Wounded all over with spears was I.
They laid him down limb-weary; 
And at the corpse’s head they stood, beheld
The Lord of heaven, as there he rested 
For a while, weary from his bitter agony.
Hewed they then a sepulchre for him
In sight of his tormentors. Carved it of the brightest stone,
and set therein the Lord of victories.
Then, wretched in the eventide, they sang
a dirge for him; and when away they went,
Wearily from that glorious Prince, there he stayed, alone.
Yet remained we there fixed and weeping in our places
A good long time after the warriors’ voices
Had from us passed away. The corpse grew cold,
The fair abode of life. Then to the earth men
Felled us down. That was a dreadful fate.
In a deep pit they buried us. But friends
And servants of the Lord learnt where I was,
And girded me with gold and silver.
Now may you understand, dearest warrior,
That I have suffered deeds of wicked men
And sorrows grievous. Now the time is come
That far and wide on earth all shall honour me,
And all this great and glorious creation,
And to this beacon offer prayers. On me
The Son of God once suffered; so glorious now
I tower beneath the heavens.
And I may heal all those in awe of me.
Once I became of tortures the cruellest,
Most loathsome to all nations, till opened I
For mortal man the right way of life.
Listen! The Prince of glory honoured me,
And heaven's King exalted me above
All other trees, just as Almighty God
For all mankind raised up his mother Mary 
Above all other women in the world.
Now, my dear warrior, I bid you
That you this sight shall say to all,
Reveal in words, this is the tree of glory
On which Almighty God once suffered torments
For mankind’s many sins, and for the deeds
Of Adam long ago. He tasted death
Thereon; and yet the Lord arose again
By his great might to come to human aid.
To heaven he rose. Again the Lord himself,
Almighty God, and all his angels with him,
Will come onto this earth to seek
Mankind at the day of doom, when he, the final Judge,
Will give his verdict upon every man,
What in this fleeting life he hath deserved.
Nor then may any be free from fear
About the words to him the Lord shall say.
Before the crowd he shall ask where that man is
Who for God’s name would suffer bitter death
As formerly did he upon the tree.
Then will they be afraid, and few will know
What they may say to Christ. But there need none
Be fearful if he bears upon his breast
The best of beacons. Through the rood each soul
May to the heavens journey from this earth,
Who with the Ruler thinks to go and dwell.”

Then prayed I to the tree with joyous heart
And eagerness, where I was all alone,
Companionless; my spirit was inspired
With keenness for departure; I’ve lived
Through many hours of longing. Now my hope in life
Is that the tree of triumph I may seek
Alone more often than all other men,
Well it honour; my wish for that is great
Within my heart, and my plea for support
Is turned towards the rood. I have on earth
Not many noble friends, but they have gone
Hence from earth’s joys and sought the King of glory,
With the High Father live they now in heaven
And in glory dwell; and I wait each day
For when the cross of God, which here on earth
I formerly beheld, may fetch me from
This transitory life and carry me
To where there is great bliss and joy in heaven,
Where the Lord’s host is seated at the feast,
And it shall set me where I hereafter
May in glory dwell, live in lasting bliss
Among the saints. May God be friend to me,
He who suffered once on the gallows tree
Here on earth for the sins of men. He us redeemed
And granted life and heavenly home.
Hope was renewed with glory and with joy
For those who suffered burning in the fires of hell.
The Son was mighty on that fateful journey,
Happy and victorious, when
The one Almighty Ruler with him brought 
A multitude of spirits to God's Kingdom,
To joy among the angels and the souls
Of those who already in the heavens dwelt 
In glory. Then almighty God had come,
The Ruler, where his dwelling was.

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