Holy Saturday: Stations XIII and XIV

Holy Saturday is a strange, still day, hanging in an unresolved poise between the darkness of the day before and the light that is not yet with us. It has its own patterns and rituals that take up a little of that empty space of waiting. Children come into church to make an Easter Garden, exhausted clergy give themselves the space to venture a walk with their families and draw breath before tomorrow’s big declamations, those who have passed through the intense experience of a Good Friday three hours watch service feel strangely dislocated from the crowds of Easter Bank holiday shoppers that surge around the Saturday markets, and all the while for all the faithful who have made this journey through Holy Week together, there is a kind of emptiness and expectant stillness within.

I have tried to reflect a little of this in these two sonnets, which follow in sequence from the ones we had on Good Friday. I was conscious as I wrote them of how these great Christian festivals, especially Easter and Christmas, draw up and carry with them some of our deepest family memories. If we are going to remember and miss someone we have loved and lost, we will do it now. So in the second sonnet I have moved from a contemplation of the women bearing spices and wishing they could at least anoint the one they miss, to focus on the many people who will visit graves and memorial plaques over this weekend, ‘Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth’. All those ‘beautiful useless gestures’, all that ‘love poured out in silence’ is, I believe, somehow gathered together in these three days and sown deep in the ground of God’s love, ready for the day when he will make all things new again.

Please feel free to make use of these poems in anyway you like, and to reproduce them, but I would be grateful if you could include in any hand-outs a link back to this blog and also a note to say they are taken from ‘Sounding the Seasons; seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, Canterbury Press 2012′ so that people who wish to can follow the rest of the sequence through the church year, or obtain the book, can do so. The book has an essay on poetry in liturgy with suggestions as to how these and the other sonnets can be used. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA  The book is now also out on Kindle.

The Images above are by Lancia Smith, those below are taken from a set of stations of the cross in St. Alban’s church Oxford. I have also read the sonnets onto audioboo, so you can click on the ‘play’ button or on the title of each poem to hear it.


Stations Of the Cross


XIII Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross

His spirit and his life he breathes in all
Now on this cross his body breathes no more
Here at the centre everything is still
Spent, and emptied, opened to the core.
A quiet taking down, a prising loose
A cross-beam lowered like a weighing scale
Unmaking of each thing that had its use
A long withdrawing of each bloodied nail,
This is ground zero, emptiness and space
With nothing left to say or think or do
But look unflinching on the sacred face
That cannot move or change or look at you.
Yet in that prising loose and letting be
He has unfastened you and set you free.

XIV Jesus is laid in the tomb

Here at the centre everything is still
Before the stir and movement of our grief
Which bears it’s pain with rhythm, ritual,
Beautiful useless gestures of relief.
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel
Soothing his ruined flesh with tender care,
Kissing the wounds they know they cannot heal,
With incense scenting only empty air.
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves
And makes our grief the pangs of a new birth.
The love that’s poured in silence at old graves
Renewing flowers, tending the bare earth,
Is never lost. In him all love is found
And sown with him, a seed in the rich ground.


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature, Meditation, Poems

6 responses to “Holy Saturday: Stations XIII and XIV

  1. Buresh, Scott

    Dear Precious Girls:

    I love Malcolm Guite’s reminder that Jesus’s death and overcoming includes in it the longing that will be fulfilled to be reunited with Mom. When Guite speaks of family memories my strongest Easter memories are the dresses Mom made for you and the pictures taken at the gardens by Hopkins and your Easter baskets.

    My favorite memory is all of us being together at Church of the Cross for the Saturday night vigil waiting for the light of the resurrection and celebrating with desserts. Our life is so rich and you have brought such depth to mine.

    Do pray for Aunt Sue as she is asking for a miracle. Slowly I am being given more insight into how hard and how dark these past 5 months have been for her. She longs for hope and peace and joy. May she find all of these in the power of Jesus’s resurrection for our deliverance this Easter.

    I love you all dearly!



  2. Brenda

    Moves me to tears. The weight of glory.

  3. Reblogged this on Pastor Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    Powerful Holy Saturday sonnet…

  4. Malcolm, I began reading the Stations sonnets yesterday. Soaking in the words again this morning, These lines from Station III are particularly powerful,
    “He sets his face like flint and takes our place/Staggers beneath the black weight of us all/And falls with us that he might break our fall.”
    The way you circle back on certain lines with each sonnet (a la Donne) is remarkable.
    So rich, sir. So very rich.

  5. Bill Fillery

    Sent from my iPad


  6. Beautiful. I post short poems on social media. Here’s one from this day:

    Easter Saturday

    Buried seed in sleeping earth,
    Lion grey on slab strewn, shorn,
    See colour drain;
    Who knows what power in dark bower breathes,
    Or hears a miracle’s faint refrain?

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