Lent and Easter
ButterflyThe weather mild, unseasonably warm
And in the church the heating works for once,
Blaring dry gusty gales to swirl and rise
Up to the distant lofty raftered roof
Where dust lies dark and dry and decades deep.
Mothering Sunday: children crowd the pews,
A buzz of chatter, craning up to watch
The puzzling pattern of the liturgy.
Observing all from the back pew`s redoubt,
And then, unscheduled, in erratic flight
When all is done and stillness falls again,
The Donkey's OwnerSnaffled 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 he owned the world.
The smile had gone, and somehow the way he sat
Maundy Thursday WatchTall arches spanning darkness;
High invisible roof: warm still air.
The shadowed crucifix outlined against carved beams.
And light spilling out through the pillars:
The dull roar of traffic sounds outside the walls.
Footsteps echo quietly down the dark aisle. The vigil
Surely, God is here.
A Sequence for Holy WeekPalm Sunday: a journey undertaken.
Strung out behind cross and choir,
Two hundred straggle from the secular to the sacred
As the incurious cars stream past,
Seeking a different consummation.
Safely within the waiting church
They reform in more purposeful procession,
Parading palms, chanting almost in time,
In hopeful pilgrimage to the Holy City.
And now the Passion is acted out -
Readers in solemn counterpoint,
The practised crowd jeering in unison.
A sombre, waiting stillness takes the place
Of a confusion of circling movement.
The first act and the first action are done.
Monday in Holy Week: a different journey.
Maundy Thursday: the shortest journey.
||Good Friday: the longest journey.
First, the witnessing.
Behind a wooden cross, through the everyday streets
To sing slow choruses to endless ecumenical guitars:
The sound frail and uncertain,
Drowned by the traffic's ceaseless rumble,
As nothing to those who pass by.
Later, the patterned worship of the liturgy within:
The altars stripped bare and waiting.
Lifted by the choir's soft, hidden anthems,
A veneration profound, silent and slow is offered
Beneath the great carved crucifix -
Christ suspended between earth and heaven -
Shadowed against the black hangings.
The fourth act is over: its action rests in the grave.
Easter Eve: a journey out of darkness.
And this is its beginning.
The CenturionWhat 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?
'Halt! Here's the place. Set down the cross.
(The grass is bare, sand-coloured : the hill
The ResurrectionI 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
Maybe I was a shadow thrown by one
I heard the voices and the recognition
It was by negatives I learned my place.
ResurrectionAt this season, more than any other,
They step forward from the darkness,
Thronging the margins of the mind.
Silently they rise up from the grave of memory:
Some who have left their mark on this place and on us
Long-past worshippers congregating again,
A parent mourned, a friend lost to the dark;
Others known only to their God:
Taken in their multitudes before their time
By man's inhumanity to man.
Their faces haunt us, their presence as real
As the heavy clustered lilies given in their memory,
Before they slip away into the shadows,
Back to the borders of oblivion.
But their death is only a beginning
And our lamenting will have an end
In the certain hope of the resurrection,
The new fire, the fanfare of faith,
When the past and the present come once more together
And all things are made whole again in God.
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