Nails

There were three

To be killed

That day.

Two were thieves,

Strong young men,

Their lives to be wasted

For their crime.

They wailed,

Writhed, sobbed,

Flailing away

Their final moments

Of movement.

It took four soldiers

To hold them

To their crosses

As the hammering began,

The sturdy masonry nails

Driven

Through resistant flesh,

Through inhuman screams,

To their wooden homes.

 

The third man

Was a prophet,

So they say,

A Messiah even,

Yet he did not

Call on God

To intercede,

To save him

From this pitiable end,

This traitor’s death.

He undressed quietly,

Lay down, sad-eyed,

On his recumbent cross,

Only recoiling

As his flogged back

Met rough, hastily cut wood.

 

He was mine to nail.

I chose the sharpest points,

Placed them with care,

Feeling somehow

His courage deserved reward.

Against habit, training,

Professional detachment,

I looked at him,

Met his dark eyes,

Fear-filled yet calm,

Saw his slightest nod.

I took a breath,

My mallet rose

And fell.

He gasped,

Flinched,

Then held himself

Still

As my hammer-blows

Pinned him

To his death.

 

Slowly the three crosses,

Their agonised burdens,

Were levered

Upright,

Away from cool earth

Into the baking, glaring day.

The preacher,

Pale beneath his tan,

Forced words

From his suffocation:

“Father, forgive them,

They know not

What they do.”

And I, stern soldier,

Practised executioner,

Turned away

And wept.

 

SIA 9 iv 2014

 

The cloak

In the grey dawn

They surged through the gates,

Eager

For the Passover treat,

The annual redemption

Of a chosen one

By their appointed lord.

 

Tired Pilate,

His shoulders bowed,

Wearied, weighed

By justice

And conscience,

The chief priests

Puffed out with righteousness

Like challenged cockerels,

And between them

The still figure

Of the preacher,

Calm, accepting,

Modest

Amid the grandeur

In his shabby robe.

 

They called him King,

King of the Jews,

Passed his condemnation

Back and forward

Like an unwanted card,

Until planted men,

Priests’ friends,

Scribes’ cousins,

Pliable hangers on,

Coaxed the crowd

To bloodlust.

 

They howled

“Crucify him!”

Baying this blameless man

To traitor’s agony,

Their prize

Redemption and liberty

For blood-soaked rebel Barabbas.

 

The Romans took him,

Flogged him

Just enough for blood,

Little enough for cross-bearing.

From some dusty chest

Soldiers pulled an old cloak,

Tyrian-dyed,

Forced

Crown and sceptre

Of thorn and reed

Upon him,

Spat, mocked,

Knelt

In this king’s

One earthly homage.

 

Dripping blood

He stepped out

In his imperial purple

Into the morning sun.

The worn cloak,

Given new life

By light,

Shone amethyst

About this battered king,

Transfigured in the dawn.

 

SIA 8-9 iv 2014

What Hope

No seed of hope,
no kernel of life,
just grainy ash.
What hope?

All past fire burnt out.
All beauty destroyed.
All riches extinguished.

Look again, all is not lost.
Look again with eyes willing to see.

Ash not of despair but a cross of hope,
a gateway to new life,
the touch, the feel of love.

Stirring the ash into new flames.
Shaping the ash into ultimate beauty.
Refining the ash into pure gold.

Nothing is beyond the reach of God,
the love of God.
Who takes the ash of our lives,
our churches,
our world,
and fashions it anew.

Look at the ash,
and see not the decay of yesterday.
Missed opportunities,
poor understanding,
broken dreams.

Look and see,
the promise of a better tomorrow
hearts,
minds,
all our beings turned to the future.
Tearing down barriers not of God’s making,
breaking cords that cuttingly bind,
righting past wrongs.

Ash claimed as God’s own.
Full of life, of love, the promise of glory.
What hope!

Sacred Space.

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky…
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth
Is spread with the same.

Walt Whitman

Every cubic inch of space a miracle?  Jesus, God Incarnate, made the whole world that sort of Sacred Space.  Holy Week reveals to us again that even the dark and bloody places of the world are sanctified by his life, death and resurrection.  The journey we make with him in retelling and experiencing his Passion through symbolic worship in Holy Week draws us into that sanctifying mystery.  We enter the darkness that we me see the light more clearly.