“Thenceforth the Form of servant to assume”

In one of the most moving passages of John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, God the Son descends to Eden to pronounce judgment upon our foreparents (a judgment which before creation he promised the Father to bear himself). This descent of the Son recalls the theophanies of God in the Old Testament, theophanies that the Church Fathers and many since have believed to have been appearances of God the Son before his incarnation.

After pronouncing judgment on Adam and Eve, the Judge then clothes the judged in a passage that wondrously interweaves the clothing of Adam and Eve and Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet in the upper room on the night before he was handed over to suffering and death:

So judg’d he Man, both Judge and Saviour sent,
And th’ instant stroke of Death denounc’t that day
Remov’d farr off; then pittying how they stood
Before him naked to the aire, that now
Must suffer change, disdain’d not to begin
Thenceforth the Form of servant to assume,
As when he wash’d his servants feet, so now
As Father of his Familie he clad
Thir nakedness with Skins of Beasts, or slain,
Or as the Snake with youthful Coate repaid;
And thought not much to cloath his Enemies;
Nor hee thir outward onely with Skins
Of Beasts, but inward nakedness, much more
Opprobrious, with his Robe of righteousness,
Arraying cover’d from his Fathers sight.

It never fails to move me to tears, and I shall think of it tonight at the liturgy of the pedilavium.


Filed under Poetry, Seasons of the Liturgical Year

2 responses to ““Thenceforth the Form of servant to assume”

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