Cleave Unto This Center

From Centuries of Meditation, 1.58-60 (ca. 1670).

The Cross is the abyss of wonders, the center of desires, the school of virtues, the house of wisdom, the throne of love, the theatre of joys, and the place of sorrows; It is the root of happiness, and the gate of heaven.

Of all the things in heaven and earth it is the most peculiar. It is the most exalted of all objects. It is an ensign lifted up for all nations, to it shall the Gentiles seek, its rest shall be glorious. The dispersed of Judah shall be gathered together to it, from the four corners of the earth. If love be the weight of the soul, and its object the center, all eyes and hearts may convert and turn unto this object: cleave unto this center, and by it enter into rest. There we might see all nations assembled with their eyes and hearts upon it.

There we may see God’s goodness, wisdom, and power: yea his mercy and anger displayed. There we may see man’s sin and infinite value. His hope and fear, his misery and happiness. There we might see the rock of ages, and the joys of heaven. There we may see a man loving all the world, and a God dying for mankind. There we may see all types and ceremonies, figures and prophecies. And all kingdoms adoring a malefactor: An innocent malefactor, yet the greatest in the world. There we may see the most distant things in eternity united: all mysteries at once couched together and explained.

The only reason why this glorious object is so publicly admired by churches and kingdoms, and so little thought of by particular men, is because it is truly the most glorious: It is the rock of comforts and the fountain of joys. It is the only supreme and sovereign spectacle in all worlds. It is a well of life beneath in which we may see the face of heaven above: and the only mirror, wherein all things appear in their proper colors: that is, sprinkled in the blood of our Lord and Savior.

The cross of Christ is the Jacob’s ladder by which we ascend into the highest heavens. There we see joyful patriarchs, expecting saints, prophets ministering, apostles publishing, and doctors teaching, all nations concentering, and angels praising. That Cross is a tree set on fire with invisible flame, that illuminates all the world. The flame is Love: the Love in his bosom who died on it. In the light of which we see how to possess all the things in heaven and earth after his similitude. For he that suffered on it was the Son of God as you are: though he seemed only a mortal man. He had acquaintance and relations as you have, but he was a lover of men and angels.

Thomas Traherne (ca. 1636-1674) was an Anglican priest and metaphysical poet, who had a short and obscure ministry. His poems and Centuries of Meditation, a book of short devotional texts, were discovered in manuscript form in 1896. Since their publication, they have been widely admired for their warm mystical piety and appreciation for the goodness and beauty of creation. He is commemorated on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican churches on September 27 and October 10.


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