It is not easy knowing how best to communicate to children something of the impact of the events we commemorate on Good Friday.
I believe stories are an effective means of communication with children and so every year for Good Friday I have written a children’s story in an attempt to convey something of the meaning of this day.
This morning I will read to the children in church
The Wounded Prince
‘My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.’
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
Once upon a time there was a young prince named Prince Teleios. He lived in the beautiful kingdom of Faredon.
Faredon was a land of flowering gardens, majestic forests, crystal clear lakes, fresh running streams, and distant snow-capped mountains. Everyone in Faredon had plenty of food and a comfortable home. The people of Faredon lived in peace and harmony. Never was an angry word heard; no one ever became sick; there was no pain in this paradise. In fact, in Faredon, they did not even have a word for pain or suffering.
One day Prince Teleios was picking and eating lush juicy sweet blackberries that grew in great abundance at the edge of the palace garden. The vines on which the blackberries grew in Faredon were perfectly smooth; they could not possibly hurt anyone. There were no thorns; blackberry picking was easy and the Prince picked all the fruit he wanted to eat.
Prince Teleios was just about full of blackberries, when suddenly something strange happened. He felt a terrible unfamiliar sensation in his foot. He had no word to describe this feeling; remember there was no word in Faredon for what we call pain.
When Prince Teleios looked down at his foot, he saw that he had stepped on a blackberry vine that was not like the other smooth soft blackberry vines in Faredon. Instead, this blackberry vine was hard and covered with large spiky thorns sticking out in all directions. One of those thorns had sunk deep into the Prince’s foot and broken off, lodging in his flesh.
The Prince staggered away from the awful thorny bush and crying out stumbled towards the palace.
The servants inside the palace were quickly roused by the strange sound of their Prince’s anguished cry. They had never heard such a sound from their Prince. They rushed to meet him as he hobbled across the lush grounds towards the palace.
Prince Teleios showed them his foot with the large jagged thorn sunk deep into his flesh. Blood was beginning to crust around the wound. No one had ever seen anything like it.
They picked up the Prince and carried him inside summoning the King and the Queen, and the wise elders of the kingdom.
Everyone examined the Prince’s foot, but no one knew what to do. Finally, the Prime Minister of Faredon suggested that, whatever this thing was that had become stuck in the Prince’s foot, it must be removed.
They called for the chief chef from the royal kitchen. He was used to cutting meat for their meals so the Prime Minister ordered the chef to bring a sharp knife to dig the thorn out of the Prince’s foot. But the chief chef could not dislodge the thorn. Soon the Prince’s cries were so loud that the chef had to give up trying.
For days the Prince lay on his bed twisting and turning, growing weaker and more restless each day.
The king’s gardeners were ordered to go to the place where the offending blackberry vine had attacked the Prince. To their horror they found not just one vine with terrible prickles but six vines twisting among the berries with sharp spiky thorns threatening anyone who came near. Such a thing had never been seen in the peaceful kingdom of Faredon.
The gardeners hacked away at the dangerous vines, but were unable to root out this terrible affliction. The harder they worked the more thorny vines seemed to appear.
Soon the gardeners were exhausted. Their skin was scratched and bleeding. They were all experiencing a terrible unfamiliar feeling that we would call suffering, but which they had no word to describe.
The Prince’s suffering was the worst of all. His foot was becoming horribly swollen. He could not stop groaning and no one could take away the terrible feeling. All the people in the kingdom were frightened for their young Prince. They did not know where to turn for help.
Then one night three days after the thorn had become lodged in the Prince’s foot, he was alone in his room trying to sleep. Suddenly a stranger appeared at the side of the Prince’s bed. Although Prince Teleios did not recognize the tall slender man leaning over him and touching his forehead, the Prince did not feel afraid. The stranger’s eyes were gentle and kind. It seemed as if this man understood the horrible feeling afflicting the Prince.
At first Prince Teleios thought this might be a visiting king or a prince from a neighbouring kingdom. The man had something on his head that looked strangely like a crown. But, when Prince Teleios looked more closely, he realized this “crown” was made out of the twisted vines of the thorny blackberry bush that had pierced his foot. Blood dripped down the man’s forehead.
As the Prince gazed into the man’s gentle eyes, he still felt the stabbing feeling in his foot. But at the same time beneath the throbbing sensation, there was a feeling that, although it didn’t remove the suffering, helped make it more bearable. This man’s eyes seemed to have a power deeper than the horrible feeling in the Prince’s foot.
Then, without making a sound, the man moved to the end of the Prince’s bed. He looked for a moment at the swelling foot; touched the wound with a gentle hand and carefully pulled the thorn from the Prince’s foot. The gaping wound sealed shut.
Silently, the man took the thorn and with a terrible sadness in his eyes, he stuck the thorn into his awful crown. The thorn pierced his skin and a trickle of blood ran down the side of his head and dripped off his check.
Silently the man turned to go.
“Wait”, Prince Teleios called out. But the mysterious stranger kept moving towards the door. The Prince stepped gingerly out of bed, putting his wounded foot on the ground. While there was a sharp sting, it was now bearable. The swelling had started to go down. The Prince realized he could walk; he followed the man out of the palace into the garden.
The man walked silently across the lawn. He passed through the patch of blackberries that had now become a terrible snarled mass of deadly thorns. The man walked into the distance, making his way towards a hill on which the Prince saw three crosses standing as if they beckoned to the man.
Prince Teleios reached the blackberry bushes at the edge of the palace grounds and realized he could go no further. It seemed impossible that anyone could have found a way through this dense tangled mess of bush.
The Prince watched sadly as the mysterious man disappeared towards the hill. Then, still limping, Prince Teleios turned back towards the palace.
From that day on, the Kingdom of Faredon, was a little less perfect than it had been. Prince Teleios limped for the rest of his life.
Over time, in Faredon, the people developed a word for this terrible thing that had happened to the Prince. They called it a wound and named the feeling “pain”.
But at the same time, the Prince always told the people of Faredon that deeper than the pain, in his heart there was now a great gift that he knew no thorn could ever destroy. Through the wound and the pain, the Prince had found a deeper word in his heart that the people came to call “love.”
And, the people of Faredon always said that, from that day on the Prince’s heart had become softer and he was kinder and more compassionate than he had ever been before the terrible wound he had suffered.
The thorn had taught Prince Teleios a deep lesson. It had opened the Prince’s heart to the presence of that love he had seen in the eyes of the man who took away the thorn, but left behind the memory of pain.
Thank you to Dan, Jen, Iona and Andrew
whose beautiful back garden gave me this story.
© Christopher Page