Tag Archives: Holy Week

Caesar is Not Amused- A Palm Sunday Meditation

Ivory Constantinople, c. 950-1000 Jesus Entry

Ivory Constantinople, c. 950-1000 Jesus Entry

As the crowds proceed the man entering from the Mount of Olives
And shouts of “Hosanna” echo through the festival clogged streets of Jerusalem
While the prophet from Nazareth makes his way through the gates
Mounted on a donkey with no sword or spear, no armor or armies
No parade of the vanquished but rather a rabble of pilgrims
Strew his way with cloaks and the palms have their crowns removed
To lay before him in this mockery or the victory procession of a conqueror
And Caesar is not amused.
 
In Herod’s Temple, with its courts and curtains
Where the cultic apparatus of the priests of the most high
Separate holy from unholy, men from women, Jews from Gentiles
Walks the one who touched the untouchables, ate with sinners and tax collectors
Brought righteousness to the unrighteous and holiness to the unholy
And as he turned the tables of the lives of so many who were previously excluded
Now here in a temple which has ceased to be a house of prayers for all the nations
The tables are turned, as currency and cattle, scapegoat and dove
Are liberated from the sacrificial efficiency of expiation
And the priests seek a new scapegoat
 
In frustration for the lack of promised fruit the fig tree withers where it set down roots
And a vineyard is tended by unfaithful tenants who kill the messengers of the master
And invited guests snub the banquet of the kingdom of God as the hall fills with others
Gathered from the forgotten highways and byways of the nations to fill the wedding hall
For the arrival of the bridegroom and the promised bride
But in a world where the things of God are given to Caesar
And the things of Caesar are looked upon as a god
Where the God of the living is attempted to be contained within a temple of cold stone
Where religion is used to puff up the proud and to step upon the poor
The master cries over the people and the city that is destined for desolation
For the wood is green that will soon be dry and the tinder is arranged
For a city that seeks a conquering Messiah
 
As in days of old when prophets came and confronted king and priest
Where city and temple, land and kings become the objects of dedication
When covenantal identity is consumed by cultic propriety
And the city kills the prophets and stones the ones sent to it
When people prefer the darkness to the light which has come into their midst
And the city cries to Caesar’s procurator to ‘crucify’
When priests proclaim the messiah as a new scapegoat
And Caesar sits amused as the city consumes its own king
As life seems to be consumed by death, love seems forsaken
And might seems to make right
Yet the God of the living
Of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob
Is not done, for the obedient one to death will be the name above all names
The prophet of Nazareth will become the high priest of the nations
The crucified king will be the one that every knee will bow to on heaven and on earth
The forsaken love will be the love that nothing can separate the world from
The light will not be consumed by the darkness
And powers that reign in the shadow of death will be disarmed
By the son of David who entered from the Mount of Olives

Neil White, 2014

 Other Holy Week poems: At The Table, Golgotha, Stay Here and Keep Watch

 

Three Days- A Poem

Statue of Mary Magdalene in Mission Santa Monica

Statue of Mary Magdalene in Mission Santa Monica

Three days has my master been gone
Three days since those he loved scattered
Three days since receiving his pierced and battered body
One final gift from the hands of our oppressors

Three days of mourning and preparations
Three days of weeping and working
Three days of trying to hold on to a man who is dead
The tomb awaits the payment of grief

The first day of the week has come
A time of new beginnings, of beginning anew
Yet I find myself walking towards the end, towards death itself
As I walk towards the gaping and devouring maw of the tomb

O tomb, you who could devour life itself
Who hold within you the remains of one who lifted a child from your jaws
One who denied you your prize, who snatched youth from your hands
Now perhaps you can laugh as you hold the one who denied you in your craw

Three days you have haunted me O death
Three days have I journeyed into your home
Three days have I tried to ward off your foul stench for this man’s sake
This man who made me a human and no longer a walking corpse

Three years did I journey with him,
Three years ago did he free me from the demons who tore at the corners of my mind
Three years of freedom and of being a human and not an object of shame
This man who I followed out of Magdala

Three days and I confront once again my fears
Do my demons lurk within this tomb?
Does my fragile self find itself destroyed by maw of death?
Yet, through my fear, for the memory of this true person I defy you.

Three of us walk together, three women, three lost ones
Three and yet incomplete without the one who lies behind the immovable rock
Three unable to pry open the jaws of the grave to snatch his life out of it
Uneasy, uncertain we walk towards the heart of the earth

Yet, as we approach you in the cold dawning of the day your mouth lies open
What has happened, have our oppressors taken away the one last gift we had
Have they shamed him even more, have they taken away our wrestling with death
Can we stand at the gaping maw of death without his presence?
Yet within the tomb sits a young man, a man in white
In the darkness, in the midst of death, youth that will not die sits
Our search ends with his puzzling message,
Our search begins with words that cannot breach our deadened senses
“Fear not, the one you seek is not here, he has gone ahead of you”

Fear not, and yet fear—a fear greater even than my fear of death overwhelms me
Who is this sitting here, who was the Jesus who lay here, what is he?
Is this the first day of a new creation, or is this truly the end?
How do I go home, how can I move, how can I tell his shattered disciples this?

Could I bear the rebuke of being a foolish woman whose dreams are shattered again?
Could I turn back home and tell what I’ve seen, do I even believe it myself?
Could I make the journey back to Galilee and wait for the Lord who lay in the tomb three days?
Or does fear reign in my body and in Mary and in Salome?

O tomb I taunted you, O death I defied you, but you I knew.
But now you stand open while my mouth is sealed shut
I feared your presence while you contained my Lord, now I cannot stand in your presence at all
Fear, confusion, amazement, wonder, silence
I run away

Perhaps the day will come when the stone over my own mouth is rolled away
Perhaps it too will take three days, or three months or three years
Perhaps it will take me finding the Lord who has been spirited away
“Fear not…he has gone ahead of you.”

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Stay Here and Keep Watch-A Poetic Meditation for Good Friday

Andrew Mantegne's Agony in the Garden

Andrew Mantegne’s Agony in the Garden

Stay here for just a moment and keep watch in the garden.
Where love is betrayed and where friends are spared
Where a beloved one brings soldiers and temple police
Where love endures and does not shirk away from the consequences of loving the loveless
Where swords are sheathed and wounds are healed
Where the healer is treated as the rebel, the lover as a bandit
Where the evening of violence has its say, yet even strong men seem reluctant to place the one claiming
“I am he” in chains
Stay here and watch as love comes down the mountain so that others may go free

Michelangelo Merisis da Carvaggio, The Denial of Saint Peter

Michelangelo Merisis da Carvaggio, The Denial of Saint Peter

Stay here for just a moment and keep watch in the courtyard
Where love is betrayed and friends are spared
Where a beloved one stands around a charcoal fire
Attempting to hold fast to the love that has been taken away by the loveless
Where a sheathed sword goes with a wounded soul
Where the one named rock becomes broken, the faithful one becomes faithless
Where the evening of violence has its say and even the rock seems unable to remain strong
“I am not” he claims
Stay here and watch as strength fails and confidence flees in the cold night

Jesus en casa de Anas by Jose de Madrazo Agudo

Jesus en casa de Anas by Jose de Madrazo Agudo

Stay here for just a moment and keep watch in the household of Caiphas
Where love is betrayed and the a people is spared
“For it is better for one person to die for the people”
As the cannibalistic logic of human sacrifice gives up on love for the sake of security
Where love is bound and struck across the face
Where hatred is sharpened on the grindstone of fear
The evening of violence with his own question, “Are you the son of God?”
“You say that I am”
Stay here and watch as testimony is transformed into terror

Mihaly Munkasy, Christ Before Pilate

Mihaly Munkasy, Christ Before Pilate

Stay here for just a moment and keep watch in the courtyard of Pilate
Where love is betrayed and an empire watches
When the leaders of the chosen nation bow down before the eagle of Rome
Where uncleanness is avoided at the cost of corruption
Where charges become spears and accusations become daggers
Where love is turned criminal and might makes right
Where the morning of violence makes its accusations
Silence is the only answer
Stay here and watch as the crowd becomes a mob

Matthias Storm, Christ Crowned with Thorns

Matthias Storm, Christ Crowned with Thorns

Stay here for just a moment and keep watch in the headquarters of the occupying army
Where love is betrayed as the legion mocks
Where purple is used to mock and crowns are made of thorns
Where mercy looks like beating and justice a cat of nine tails
Where titles of honor become mockeries of disdain
Where spears and swords are the real power
Where a violence owns the day and power shapes reality asking
“What is truth?”
Stay here and watch as the love is abused by power

Hieronymus Bosch, Christ Carrying the Cross

Hieronymus Bosch, Christ Carrying the Cross

Stay here just for a moment and keep watch in the midst of the mob
Where love is betrayed and hatred is fueled by fear
Where a people turn from the dream of hope to the certainty of death
Where the fires of anger are stoked by the desperation for someone to blame
Where mercy and justice corrode in the illusive certainty of self-deception
Where words are more deadly than swords, a mob more dangerous than an army
The morning of violence passes its sentence
“Crucify, Crucify”
Stay here and watch as truth is the casualty of fear

Antonio Ciseri, Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)

Antonio Ciseri, Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)

Stay here just a moment and keep watch at Gabbatha, the stone pavement
Where justice is consumed by the gaping jaws of blind rage
Where the people betray their own identity to become the servants of violence
Where love endures and does not shirk away from the consequences of loving the loveless
Where rage demands the life of the innocent and freedom for the bandit
Where the wages of love are death and cost of healing is execution
The morning of violence cries out its judgment
“Crucify, crucify.”
Stay here and watch as the horror presses on unstoppable

White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall

White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall

Stay here just a moment and keep watch at Golgatha, the place of the skull
Where love is killed and the world stops
Where darkness rules in the midst of the day
Where nails and spears deny love the air it needs to breath
Where the King of the Jews becomes the slave of the cross
Where justice and mercy are traded for death
The afternoon of violence has had its say and love utters its final words
“It is finished”
Stay here and watch as it is finished but not complete

Garden Tomb considered by some to be the site of the burial and resurrection

Garden Tomb considered by some to be the site of the burial and resurrection

Stay here just for a moment and keep watch in the garden
Where love is laid in a tomb and the beloved ones weep
Where hope seems lost and violence seems to be truth
Where the crucified one is placed in a tomb
Where the world enters into the silence of Sabbath without its Lord
Where everything stops and death has its word
The silence of Sabbath and the closed lips of the tomb utter
“It is finished”
Stay here and watch until the certainty of death and darkness, violence and power, rage and fear have their say

The Resurrection of Christ by Piero della Francesca

The Resurrection of Christ by Piero della Francesca

Stay here just a moment longer and keep watch on this night and one night more
Where we wait for the day when truth is reborn
Where love triumphs over hatred
Where peace wins over violence
Where life is liberated from death
When the silence of Sabbath gives way to the beginning of new creation
And the voices of the grieving proclaim
“He is risen”
Stay here and watch knowing that resurrection is coming

purple rose 01 by picsofflowers.blogspot.com

Golgotha

White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall

White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall

Alone, life is over,
Those whom I ask to wait for me enter into sleep
A sleep deeper than death itself
Seconds creep by, minutes last for years
As I wait for my Father to answer me
Yet no answer comes.

Life, truly lived in God blessed abundance
Good friends, those who love me and whom I love
Those who would drink my cup, those who would share my bread
And yet for them I am alone waiting on the Father
Yet no answer comes.

Love, freely given and rarely returned
The religious mock me and the educated despise me
A few closer than brothers and sisters I have drawn near
Yet the same God brings love and separation
So still I sit alone and await an answer from the Father
Yet no answer comes.

Torment, yet it is the cup I choose
I could allow this cup to pass; yet I drink it to the dregs
I take on the curse so others might have a blessing
For those who curse me and those I have drawn near
I sit alone, the answer from the Father
I am the answer.

Betrayal, a brother draws near
With a kiss comes a wound deeper than any sword or spear
One who shared my bread rends my heart in two
I stand surrounded, forsaken by the Father
I am the answer for Judas.

Abandoned, every brother and sister scattered
For the fear of death my name forgotten and denied
All whom I opened myself to now flee as I sit on the altar
Accused, Spat upon, Beaten, a lamb for slaughter
I am the answer for the scattered.

Hated, I bear the weight of Jerusalem
An earthly kingdom I would not claim, so a thief’s death they select
Nothing did I take, only love did I give
Yet in my love I uncovered hatred so dark that hell could not contain it
Marked, Broken, Despised, a Scapegoat
I am the answer for a conquered people.

Disregarded, shown contempt as a peasant
I do not even merit the time of the procurator, only the fervor of the city’s hatred
Places me as King of the Jews before the vassal of Caesar
The power to judge I could wield, yet instead to earthly power I yield
I become the crucified one for the Romans
I am the answer for the empire.

Hung on the mountain, exposed to the world
I bear witness to a kingdom present given my form
I stake my claim as I gasp for air in the God forsakenness of Golgotha
I bear the rebellion of humanity waging war against the Creator
I am love hung on a cross for the world, the embrace of the Father
I am the answer for all creation.

I hang on the cross today bearing the sins of a world come of age
Aging but still turned inward on itself, consuming its own flesh
A world that may know my name, but has forgotten who I am
A world who no longer needs me, but is intent on saving itself at the cost of its own life
Creation is smothered and the oppressed are crushed
The powerful are caught in their paranoia and fathers disown their children
Wives seek other lovers and leaders devour their followers
The blood of the earth cries out for vindication, the desecrated heavens shout for judgement
Yet here I hang, the lamb, the scapegoat, the crucified one, love it self
Forsaken for the world’s sake, and yet I am
I am the answer for the world
Does anyone question anymore?

Composed Neil White, 2013

Updated from a poem originally written in 2002

purple rose 01 by picsofflowers.blogspot.com

At the Table- A Meditation and Poem for Maundy Thursday

The Last Supper by Pascal Adolphe Dagnan-Bouvret

The Last Supper by Pascal Adolphe Dagnan-Bouvret

At the table with the others who will stumble and fall
Here with the one who touched us each in our turn
Healing our sickness, dispelling our demons, freeing us from our captivity
At least for the moment we are reclining at the table, a part of the feast
With Peter and John and James, Mary Magdalene and Martha and Lazarus
With saints of all ages and times and sinners from far and near
On this night we are there with them sharing in the feast of deliverance
From slave to liberation, from outsider to insider
No titles, no ranks, no stations or wealth matter here
For at the table this night we are all guests of the Lord
Bound together by his love

On this night we call Maundy, we receive the mandate
A call to love as we have been loved
To serve as we have been served
To make others clean as we have been made clean
Though we may deny and betray the Lord who joins us together
With our words
With our actions
With our hatred
With our exclusion
With our prejudice
With our pride
With our clinging to the old order rather than seeking God’s kingdom
With our addictions to power and wealth and privilege
With our own self-righteousness
Like Judas we may value money over God’s dream
Like Peter we may not be able to see how a master can serve
Or perhaps in our attempts to follow in his tracks we will deny we know him
Before the cock crows in the morn
We come with all the others, as unexpected and unworthy guests of the Lord of love
Receiving forgiveness and mercy, his prayers and his love
Tonight we are a part of the gathering of the feast that is to come in the kingdom

Though we know the story, we know these things, we know to love
And we are blessed to be called to do them
To wash feet
To share a meal
To extend forgiveness
To love as we have been loved
To remember again the story that shapes our lives
And to come again to the table to share in the gifts of grace
We are called and gathered here as one
No longer separated as
men and women
slave and free,
Jew and Gentile,
Righteous and unrighteous
Saint and sinner
Lord and servant
Rich and poor
Powerful and pariah
No here we are all beloved
Maybe we are God lovers,or seekers,or lost,or confused
Wondering how it is that we find ourselves here on this night
Yet here we are and once again we are
Washed and cleansed, yet needing to be washed again
Fed and yet not satisfied, with the foretaste until the feast itself comes
Made holy and yet still we may walk from this place labeled by others as a sinner
Forgiven and yet still not free from being led into temptation
And yet we are here at the table this night
As we are moved by God towards our liberation
We share bread and the cup
The bread of affliction is turned into a sampling of the kingdom of heaven
The cup of sorrow is transformed into the elixir of new life
As Christ offers himself to us again and meets us here at the table
As one who serves, so that we might learn to serve
As one who love, so that we might learn to love
As one who forgives, so that we might learn to forgive
As one who welcomes the stranger, as we might welcome the stranger
Shaped and formed by the practice of love to be those who can love one another
So that others may know whose we are
We are those who were here at the table
Invited and shaped by the loving Lord who hosts us this night

Composed Neil White 2013

purple rose 01 by picsofflowers.blogspot.com