Holy Saturday: Stations XIII and XIV

https://lanciaesmith.com

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. No more so than now, in the preternatural stillness emptiness and grief of this pandemic, when life is paused, but also perhaps poised on the threshold of the new.

When I wrote the two ‘stations’ sonnets I am posting today I was conscious 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.

That need, expressed in these sonnets bon to honour grief and yet to bring a whisper of hope to the grieving, seems more pressing than ever.

https://lanciaesmith.com

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  It is now also out on Kindle.

The Images above are by Lancia Smith,  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.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Holy Saturday: Stations XIII and XIV

  1. Susan Adams

    Thank you for sharing these poems and thoughts – especially at this difficult time of isolation and uncertainty. They have been a precious resource.

  2. Judith Brooksbank

    Wonderful and heart wrenching poems. I heard a senior Catholic priest yesterday on Radio 4 considering how Jesus’ crucifixion related to death from covid-19. He said there was a direct comparison because both were ultimately death from asphixia. I was struck by your thoughts on breath and breathing in the first poem. Thank you and God bless!

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks yes I reread that breathing poem again with a new sense and of Christ’s solidarity with all who ‘labour to draw breath’

  3. Veronica Lamont

    Thank you Malcolm for all your work- these poems mean even more in these days. Keep safe.

  4. 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.
    ~ Malcolm Guite

    And all at once I see stems pushing forth
    the ground disturbed, new life, rises, abounds.
    ~ Linda Trott Dickman

    Thank you Malcolm, I am looking at the tulip greens in a whole new way.

  5. philippe.garmy@okstate.edu

    Sonnet XIV touched a nerve for me this morning. This past winter, I lost both an aunt and an uncle. They were quite dear to me throughout my life and so the sudden finality of their earthly presence still causes some ongoing sadness. Their burial rituals were not in the least, “beautiful useless rituals of relief.” Rather, they were necessary grieving memorials with family and friends, who all wished and needed to pay homage and say their final earthly goodbyes. That our grieving humanity in times of loss are not lost to our Lord who “blesses every love that weeps and grieves” is testimony to his fullness as man and as God. But then, Jesus goes into the kingdom of death and brings to that dark place the light and power of God…and with this power, Jesus breaks the hold that death has over us. The story is not finished for Him nor for us.

  6. ldcravens

    All of your books and meditations have been precious to me this Lent. Especially your Lenten meditations which my husband and I alternate reading aloud every night. I have shared (with attribution many bits electronically). Especially am enjoying poets corner BOOK. I don’t take church times anymore as too expensive for paper copy in states and mostly like newspapers better in paper form. Anyway read W fr Wormingford all the years and have all his books. But missed YOU until I got your Lenten book and then found your blog and bought all your other books. THANK YOU.

    My husband and I are retired and live deep in the country on the Louisiana Texas border at Swanson’s Landing Texas. An old steamboat landing from 19th century. The lace belonged to my grandparents as a country retreat from 1920s on. If you are ever in Texas come see us We have lots of room and love visitors. We even have a writers cabin Louise Dickson Cravens

    (My Facebook persona a pretty well kept secret is: INDIA JANE MCCORKLE) >

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks so much for this – I’m glad you’ve found the poet’s corner collection- there should be another one out this Autumn. My wife and I also read aloud to each other – one of the pleasures of life. I hope you and your husband are keeping well in the midst of all this. I do come out to Texas sometimes so maybe I can make it out to Swanson’s landing – thanks for the invitation M

  7. Reid Seibert

    Thank you Malcolm. Your tender words ease my heart ache and lead me to the stillness of His love. God bless you and your family always… Reid

  8. Reid Seibert

    Thank you Malcolm. Your tender words ease my heart ache and lead me to the stillness of His love. God bless you and your family always… Reid

  9. treric7

    Hello from Canada, I have received your posts for some time now. My daughter died

  10. If you’ve written a better poem than Sonnet XIV, I’m not aware of it. The sequence of sounds, the succession of images, and above all the phrase breaking into the couplet (“Is never lost”), – hard to see how any of this could be improved upon. And coming, as it does, at this point in the series of Stations makes it all the more powerful.

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