“Crowds”

“Hosanna! Savior, hail!” the masses cried
To greet their rightful King, though in their hearts
They shouted more to strain the chafing bonds
That long-oppressive Rome had laid on them
Than from true fealty to God’s anointed.

Not one week later, these same thronging crowds,
Incited by their leaders’ selfish plots
And stirred up into frenzied lust for blood,
Now clamored for their King to be condemned,
Abused, accursed, and put to gruesome death.

As he trudged through the streets, and up the hill,
Then hung in agony for his last hours,
The multitudes passed by to mock his end
Or stood to shout more scorn, but he was silent,
Suffering the bitter fate he chose
Without complaint, and even speaking grace
To those who tortured him before he died.

At last he breathed his final mortal breath
And cried his work’s completion to the sky;
An earthquake marked the opening of the way
That greater multitudes thereafter tread
Who have been, by his sufferings, brought to peace.

Photograph of Golgotha by an unknown photographer

I had long intended to write a poem for Good Friday, or at least for Holy Week, as in several of the last few years, but the first glimmers of an idea for the above only came to me less than a week ago.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Last Words”

The Lord of light and life has bared his back
To suffer spiteful scourging, spread his hands
In painful welcome wide beneath the nails,
And hung in human agony for hours.
But, as the soldiers gambled for his clothes,
His labored, anguished breath gave voice to grace:
“Forgive, because they know not what they do.”

Continue reading

“The Life of all that lives”

The Life of all that lives lays down his life
To die the death the dead deserve to die;
The Blessed One for us becomes accursed—
Though sinless, bears what sinful men deserve. Continue reading

“Passion”

Painting by Jacques Tissot

Mere days ago, when he rode up the hill,
The cheering throngs, with palms and wild acclaim
Did him the royal homage he was due.
And, when his foes rebuked him, Jesus said
That if the crowds held back Hosannas, praise,
Or shouts of acclamation, then the very rocks
On which the road was built would shout his fame.

But now, today, the Passover begun,
The fickle crowds now thirsty for his blood
And justice through their courts’ injustice done,
Creation shows this statement was no lie:
The very sun grows pale for these three hours;
So great her anguish at the pain of him
By whom she first was spoken into flame,
That darkness blots out every beam of light.

And when he breathes his last, his final words
Proclaiming that man’s debt is paid at last
And trusting all—his spirit—to God’s hands,
In grief and satisfaction the earth shakes
To mark its Maker’s death. At the same time
God tears the heavy curtain into two
That hangs within the temple’s Holy Place
to shield imperfect, mortal priests from death,
Because the perfect, final Sacrifice
Was offered and accepted, once for all,
To take away the sins of Adam’s sons.

I wrote this poem, for today’s occasion, this past week. It was initially sparked by reading the Palm Sunday text with fresh eyes, and perhaps a little by Rebecca Miller’s post about the Triumphal Entry (and her question about whether it should be Good Friday at all is also well worth reading). Over the next few days it mostly “wrote itself,” and then I just had to work through how to end it without breaking the meter.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (perhaps starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.

“Pascha”

Each Friday I post one of my poems.

Behold, upon that cross, between two thieves,
How vast the Maker’s wrath upon the ill
That we, and all our human race have done
In our revolt against his perfect law:
The sun, untimely darkened, hides its face
At the mere sight of God’s just punishment.
But see it meted, not to us condemned,
But to his perfect, sinless only Son,
For grace in love abounds in mercy here
Beyond the vastness of his holy wrath.
How foolish to our mortal, human eyes
This love, unsearchable, cannot but seem—
Yet in its shade the wise must stand in shame.
Oh, Lord, that you would make me such a fool!
Teach me to love you as your gift deserves;
Teach me to love my neighbor as you did
There on that day, upon that cruel hill.

I wrote this months ago—perhaps last October—but held it in reserve until the day most appropriate for it.

I always welcome your comments, critique, suggestions, or any other feedback on this poem or any other part of my work. You can also read other poems I’ve written here on my blog.

This poem is also posted on my wiki.