The Passion The Way and End of Tears
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
In its early days the apocalyptic church looked on suffering and persecution as the inevitable consequences of following Christ. For Herbert, in the seventeenth century, to take up his cross and follow Jesus means something personal: it means to accept the afflictions sent by God, to surrender his will to the divine will, and to renounce his own plans in order to embrace God's design for him. This is the course the Incarnate Jesus pursued on earth; and, as Schoenfeldt acknowledges, “The phenomenon of the incarnation, moreover, warrants the body as a site of sacrificial pain which enables Christian salvation” (123). Even so, for an educated, ambitious man like Herbert who nurtures an artistic spirit in an infirm body, the subjugation of the self not only proves challenging but it also proves unsettling; yet, by surrendering his will to the divine will, Herbert discovers the fruits of resignation to be intimacy and identification with the Incarnation.
The opening sequence of “The Church” reveals how difficult it must have been for Herbert to forgo the happy plans he had made for himself as the Lord's minstrel: Herbert's speakers hesitate to address the Passion because it compels them to admit that the Christian life is a life of suffering and that the cross, rather than the song, is the “decreed burden of each Mortall saint” (“The Sacrifice” 1. 199); however, the personae in “The Church” become more articulate as they discover—just as the human