Poems for Holy Week

Palm Sunday

The Donkey's Owner

Snaffled my donkey, he did - good luck to him! -
Rode him astride, feet dangling, near scraping the ground.
Gave me the laugh of my life when I first see them,
Remembering yesterday - you know, how Pilate come
Bouncing along the same road, only that horse of his
Big as a bloody house and the armour shining
And half Rome trotting behind. Tight-mouthed he was,
Looking like he owned the world.

Then today,
Him and my little donkey! Ha - laugh? -
I thought I'd kill myself when he first started.
So did the rest of them. Gave him a cheer
Like he was Caesar himself, only more hearty:
Tore off some palm-twigs and followed shouting,
Whacking the donkey's behind .... Then suddenly
We see his face.
The smile had gone, and somehow the way he sat
Was different - like he was much older - you know -
Didn't want to laugh no more.

Clive Sansom
The Witnesses

Monday in Holy Week

The Centurion

What is it now? More trouble?
Another Jew? I might have known it
.These Jews, they buzz around the tail of trouble
Like lascivious flies. Do they think we're here
Because we love them? Is it their climate
That holds us here? Why, think, Marcellus -
By God, just dream of it. Today in Rome,
Less than two thousand thirsty miles away,
Fountains and squares and shadowed colonnades,
Men with smooth chins and girls that sometimes wash.
Well, who is it? ... I see.
Another to be taken to the bonehill.
They're coming now. Just listen to them! -
You'd think they had a dozen there at least.
My sword, Marcellus. I'll be back to dinner,
Unless this fellow`s a reluctant dier
Who loves the world too well.

Halt! Stop that shouting. Why is he dressed like that? 
(His robes are purple. On his head
A hedge-crown. Where the thorns are driven
Berries of blood leap up ... ) 'My orders differ.
Remove that crown - at once - return his clothes.
Kingship can wait until his throne is ready.
Till then, safe conduct. Hold your lines -
Especially that to the windward: I've no fondness
For foreign spittle. Hold them. March... '

'Halt! Here's the place. Set down the cross.
You three attend to it. And remember, Marcus,
The blows are struck, the nails are driven
For Roman law and Roman order,
Not for your private satisfaction. 
Set to work.'

(The grass is bare, sand-coloured : the hill
Quivers with heat.) 'What? As you please.
Seamless? Then dice for it.' (The sun
Is brutal in this land, metallic.
It works for death, not life.) 'Well, is it done?
Now nail the board above: 'King of the Jews.'
That turns the mockery on them. Watch them wince
At the superscription. Look, their faces!
Hate. Which man is hated most,
Myself or him? He'll serve for both:

They know their limitations. They know,
Greek, Jew or Roman, there is one command,
One only. What's his name? -
He takes it quietly. From Nazareth?
I know it well. Who would exchange it
For this sad city, and become
The food of flies? Marcus, there!
Give him some wine: he won't last long.'
That strain of wrist, the arm's tension 
And scarecrow hang of chest. Ah, well, 
Poor devil, he's got decent eyes.

Clive Sansom
The Witnesses

Tuesday in Holy Week

Sixth Station

The dark has lifted
for a moment now,
and film of dirt and sweat,
blurring his eye focus
to make crazy patterns on the road,
has cleared.

The cool clean cloth
feels sweet against his face.
He remembers his mother
had the same gentleness in her touch
when she had washed from him
the grime a child's play made,
these many years ago,
and held a fresh white towel
close. This towel, too, he sees
is white.

The road no longer blurs
and rocks before his eyes.
He tries to smile a little
across the pain that cracks his lips,
and hands the woman's kerchief
back to her.

His dark eyes look, then, into hers.
He leaves remembrance
of his gratitude indelible
upon her towel's whiteness, and carries
indelible upon his heart
Veronica's gentle act of courtesy.

Anna Mae Marheineke rscj

Wednesday in Holy Week


When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do,’
And still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through and through;
The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see,
And Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary

GA Studdert Kennedy  (‘Woodbine Willie’)

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday Watch

Tall arches spanning darkness;
High invisible roof: warm still air.
The shadowed crucifix outlined against carved beams.
And light spilling out through the pillars:
Soft radiance from a firmament of flickering candles,
Gold and white in the night, swaying shadows.
Burnished sanctuary lamp mirroring the arc of fire below;
Dark grouped leaves and boughs, and frozen flowers:
Christ on the altar in Gethsemane.
The dull roar of traffic sounds outside the walls.
Silent worshippers kneel or sit to keep their watch,
With only the rustle of a page, the shifting of a chair
To move the soft silence.
Waiting for death to come to their Lord in the morning
To bring them life.
Footsteps echo quietly down the dark aisle. The vigil
Goes on. The faithful watch with Christ.
Outside the cold midnight brings another Good Friday.
Inside, no time, only the soft shadow of eternity.
Surely, God is here.

Chris Price
St Faith's Church: April, 1973

Good Friday

Good Friday

Good Friday afternoon
and silence falls.

Small movements of the blossomed trees,
a bird or two, wagtail or robin,
casually busy round about.

Silence is not absence of all usual sounds
but a concurring stillness
which nature seems to share:

the mountains wrapped in mist
sunlight enhancing all that the eye absorbs;

colours of the year's first flowers
bare branches' shadows scribbled on the grass
the unleaved trees awaiting summer growth.

Our world is at a standstill
in this centre point of Time and Space
where we await a Dying and an End.

Once more this Dying and again this End
familiar, and each year renewed
in anguished expectation.

Familiar Ending and each year renews;
a springing back to life, a greenness
the opening of new leaf, new life, a Resurrection,
making, it seems a final End,
yet offering once again
a new Beginning forged of all our past
and all our solitary dyings.

April O'Leary rscj

Were you there...?

'Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Listen to the last verse of this negro spiritual as recorded by Fr Neil Kelley and sung at previous Good Friday services

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday

Rain. Strong, steady April rain
Scatters waning cherry blossoms over the grass
Invites scarlet tulips, yellow daffodils
To stiffen, open, rise.

In churches that observe this day
Everything is grey
Crosses gone or covered, candles out
Waiting for the night, when New Fire flames
Baptized, Exultant, Singing.

Today, the waiting time.
Whatever happened during Lent
Is buried in the harrowed soil,
Puts down roots now, drinking in
The steady April rain.

Who knows what green will grow
From this quiet, rain-soaked day?

Kathleen Henderson Staudt
April 11, 2009

Easter Day

The Resurrection

I was the one who waited in the garden
Doubting the morning and the early light.
I watched the mist lift off its own soft burden,
Permitting not believing my own sight.

If there were sudden noises I dismissed
Them as a trick of sound, a sleight of hand.
Not by a natural joy could I be blessed
Or trust a thing I could not understand.

Maybe I was a shadow thrown by one
Who, weeping, came to lift away the stone.
Or was I but the path on which the sun,
Too heavy for itself, was loosed and thrown?

I heard the voices and the recognition
And love like kisses heard behind thin walls.
Were they my tears which fell, a real contrition?
Or simply April with its waterfalls?

It was by negatives I learned my place.
The garden went on growing and I sensed
A sudden breeze that blew across my face.
Despair returned, but now it danced, it danced.

Elizabeth Jennings