PRAYER BOOK MATTINS (1662) – as well as the Eucharist – was a  major feature of my spiritual diet in childhood, youth and early adulthood / priesthood, so Zechariah’s Benedictus (Luke 1.68) comes readily to mind whenever I think of tenderness:

And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people: for the remission of their sins; through the tender mercy of our God: whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us; to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

God walks among the poor. Tender mercy belongs to the Divine nature. God is especially present today in Norway and in East Africa. Human beings though, and perhaps especially those most materially blessed, have to work at tenderness. Tagore’s Gitanjali echoes in my soul today:

10. Here is thy footstool and there rest thy feet where live the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.

When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance cannot reach down to the depth where thy feet rest among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.

Pride can never approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of the humble among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.

My heart can never find its way to where thou keepest company with the companionless among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.

Rabindranath Tagore