Lent and Easter


The 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,
I see the servers' solemn concentration,
The choir saintly beyond the figured screen
And flowers clutched in small and eager hands
In touching tribute to a mother's love -
The happy holy muddle of a day
Relenting of its penitential mood
To grant refreshment in our pilgrimage.


And then, unscheduled, in erratic flight
A butterfly takes wing above the pews,
Dipping and rising on its glittering way:
Aroused too early from its winter sleep,
Bewildered by the moving, glaring light
To flutter in untimely resurrection;
It swiftly surfs the tides of tepid air,
Lost In a moment out of sight and mind.

When all is done and stillness falls again,
Intent on vestry business, counting cash,
My glance is held by brightness on the floor:
The glinting coinage of a higher realm -
A fallen angel, peacock-bright in death,
Wings wide and still, the colours glowing deep,
Back in a sleep with no awakening,
While we still wait our Easter flight of faith.

Chris Price
St Faith's Church, March 9th, 1997

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 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.

Chris Sansom
The Witnesses

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

A Sequence for Holy Week

Palm 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.
The woven stations of the cross
Red and gold against pillars and brick walls
Each in turn a focus of shuffling movement
For those who come in from the darkness.
In the lowered light the story unfolds
From condemnation to crucifixion,
Clustering round each resting place
While women's voices, light and softly-pitched,
Charged with a mother's empathy for a Son,
Underscore the unyielding way of the cross.
It ends in a quiet consecration.
The calm offering of the Eucharist
Draws all movement into its timeless pattern.
The second act and its action are finished.

Maundy Thursday: the shortest journey.
From pew and choirstall but a few steps
To the altar where things broken are renewed
And the ultimate mystery is made manifest.
Standing in solemn expectancy
At the point where the moving images are stilled,
Witnesses to a sacrifice renewed,
Young and old come together In commemoration
Of a life laid down for the earth's remaking:
To share in the circling host.
Then, in the cool, watching darkness,
Flanked by unwavering candleflame.
Christ rests again as in the tomb:
The axis of the turning of the world.
The third act rests from its pivotal action.

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.
The new fire kindled in the blackness;
Continents of light spreading outwards and upwards.
The rising cadences of proclamation;
The ancient stories of the listening vigil
Spaced with the silences of the final waiting
And then suddenly the dazzling sunburst:
The trumpeted glory of the certain resurrection- 
Golden and white, fully-flowered in light;
The wreathed ascending clouds of the holy smoke;
The high, impossible hymns of joy.
In the far sanctuary, bishop and priests
Celebrate again the paschal sacrifice
In triumphant prelude to the splendours of the Easter dawning.
The last act rests now in its final action.

And this is its beginning.

Chris Price
St Faith's Church: Easter, 1991

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

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


At 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.

Surely ...

Chris Price
St Faith's Church: Easter, 1995

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