Holy Week Sonnets

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This year for Lent I committed to writing a sonnet each day. I won’t burden you with all forty, but at the risk of being presumptuous, I thought I’d post the seven sonnets for Holy Week in the hope that they might be helpful somehow. The stories are true, folks. He is risen, indeed.

PALM SUNDAY
“Hosanna!” We cried, and we waved our palms,
Standing outside the church on Palm Sunday.
We sang songs of praise, read lessons and Psalms,
And then came the Gospel reading. The way
It usually happens, the celebrant
Follows the cross and Bible down the aisle,
And we all turn to face them. The moment
Reminds us of the Incarnation while
The scripture is read. God did become flesh.
He dwelt among us. But it’s Holy Week,
And things change so that we feel it all fresh,
The arrest, trial, crucifixion: we shriek,
“Crucify him! Crucify him! Release
Barabbas!” How quickly hosannas cease.

MONDAY
Passover was at hand. It was a time
Of remembering. Once, they were enslaved
To Egypt, but God freed them. Who will climb
The mountain now? The holy law engraved
On stone, written by the finger of God,
Was delivered, and it said, “Remember.”
Did they? Did they remember the lamb’s blood
While they sold pigeons in the temple for
Caesar’s coins? Jesus, upturn my table.
Cleanse your temple. Be zealous for my heart,
Because it belongs to you. Unable
but willing, I beg you to take apart
Each stone and rebuild in me a new home.
Make a temple out of this catacomb.

TUESDAY
I’ve never seen a better place for spring
Than here in Tennessee. The dogwoods spread
And blossom in the shadows by the stream,
Like cotton balls above the riverbed.
And never have I seen a richer blend
Of greens! So many hues illuminate
Both underfoot and and overhead, suspend
The verdant canopy with heaven’s weight,
And anchor earth with heaven’s airy hue,
That I can scarce discern if this is dream
Or merely God’s abundance breaking through
With pure delight in what he made, agleam
With grace in this, the cursed and crooked earth.
You resurrect the world with every birth.

WEDNESDAY
Tenebrae. A darkening. Poems read,
Stories told, candles extinguished, songs sung.
I sat all night in the dark with my head
Full of conflicting thoughts. Some of them stung,
Some were just mild distractions, enough that
I considered slipping out to go home.
But of all the places I could have sat,
In that room as dark as stone-sealed tomb,
I gleaned beside me a good friend’s shadow.
His eyes were shut the whole time. I even
Changed positions once and bumped his elbow,
But he didn’t flinch. How could I know then
What I know now, how his heart was broken?
The dark silence was the solace spoken.

MAUNDY THURSDAY
“Love as I have loved,” you said, washing feet.
A foot is a humble thing, the lowest
Part of the body, where earth and flesh meet.
We put them up when we just want to rest,
And our odd little toes, smelly digits,
Callused and caked with dirt, don’t make the best
First impression, even if one sees fit
To put his best foot forward. But you blessed
Your friends from head to foot, washing away
The day’s accumulation of travel,
Speaking into existence a new way
To love: love by exalting the humble
By serving the servant, by kneeling down
Before your subjects, giving us your crown.

GOOD FRIDAY
After this, Jesus, knowing all was done,
Said, “I thirst.” They raised a sponge of sour wine
On a hyssop branch, gave it to the Son,
Holding it to the mouth of the True Vine.
He drank. “It is finished,” he said at last,
Then he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.
John, as an old man, looked into the past
And wrote his gospel. I wonder what cost
Came with remembering that stormcloud day?
Did he shudder as he wrote out each word?
What would it be like to kneel down and pray
To the God whose grand stories you have heard
Since boyhood, and carry the memory
Of him hanging there, bleeding on the tree?

HOLY SATURDAY
Joseph came and took him down from the hill.
Nicodemus also came, with aloe
And myrrh—seventy-five pounds, just to kill
The death smell—and they wrapped him head to toe
In linen, which is how it was done then.
They needed to bury him somewhere soon.
Not far from Golgotha was a garden,
And in that garden was an open tomb
Where no body had yet been laid to rest.
The Jewish Day of Preparation meant
There were laws these righteous men did their best
To keep, so they, of all the people, went
To Pilate, made it happen. Who can tell
If they loved God? They loved their neighbor well.

RESURRECTION SUNDAY
Be praised, Lord Jesus, humble conqueror!
Thy battered body’s wounds were joyful streams,
Thy furrowed flesh the soil of the gardener,
Thy bones unbroken, strong as temple beams.
But none could know when laid they in the ground
The sin-wrecked Son of God whose heart was dead,
Whose stiffened corpse was cold and linen bound,
As day-death turned the firmament to red
And decay began its work on each cell,
As decay has done since hard fell the curse,
What glory was to gleam in that dark hell
When death’s decay at once was in reverse.
Be praised, Lord Jesus! Morning then revealed
Thy beating heart! Today, my heart is healed.

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


8 Comments

  1. mayajt

    Amazing! Andrew, I love your work and I cannot stop praising God for putting it in my life. I love music and am a writer and poet as well, and it’s great to see someone who loves all the things I do and is successful at them. I think we will meet sometime in this life, since I do my best to show up at every event you’re at near me, but if not, than I’ll see you in the next! Thanks for the message of hope for one of my favorite times in the church year.

  2. Aaron Wolcott

    Thank you for sharing these – they are beautifully written. I have tried to write haikus over lent the past few years and keeping up with it has been difficult – can’t imagine writing a sonnet each day for 40 days!

  3. Kathleen Krueger

    The story of the men who took him down from the cross has always been one that has intrigued me, so, Holy Saturday grabbed my attention. Yes, they loved their neighbor well. Did you know that the name of Joseph of Arimathea is one of the few names that is mentioned in all four Gospels? I believe this indicates that he became and remained a part of the early Christian community.

  4. Gllen

    To my Rabbit Room community;

    This Easter has been a very different one for me. One full of loss, grief, and sorrow. But one also full of the hope of Christ.

    My Mom went to be with Jesus this Easter. It was not completely unexpected, but it was sudden and hard.
    My Mom had Parkinson’s disease for 27 years. She turned 86 this past February. She never complained but carried on one day at a time, doing what she could. Loving people and trusting her Lord.
    The funeral was this past Monday – Easter Monday. It was a very special time of fitting tribute to a woman who loved much and served God faithfully over many years.

    My Mom passing at Easter, and my brother passing 3 years ago on Christmas Eve (from cancer) has added new layers to these two significant times of the Christian year. (And Good Friday was my brother’s birthday!)

    Andrew – like you, I too spent time writing out pieces of my heart this year during Lent. I wrote prayers – simple, honest, and yearning prayers shaped from the currents of my life.
    It was a necessary and meaningful process to attend to. (I intend to put them into a handbound book in the near future).

    A scripture that has meant much to me this Easter is
    1 Thess. 4:14 – “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus…”

    ———————

    I read the following poem on Easter Monday at my Mom’s funeral service.
    I was unsure if I’d be able to get through it, but gratefully did.
    (I had written it a few years ago after seeing the effects/progression of the disease in my Mom’s life during a family birthday party, and put my response into written form when I got home that night).

     

    parkinson’s

    “thou shalt not dance…”

    this was an unspoken
    or seldom mentioned creed
    of my mother’s formative
    and growing up years.

    she was careful
    to obey its statutes
    and limitations
    and never questioned
    its authority.

    but –  now

    my mother’s body
    is carrying her away
    in a dance
    all its own.

    without her permission,
    without her assent,
    she is being led
    into waltzes, pirouettes,
    gyrations, and overtly
    expressive movements –

    caught by forces beyond her will,
    or control,
    and made to dance.

    she cannot say No.
    she cannot decline.
    she cannot resist these
    unwelcome intrusive
    advances.

    I am not making light
    of this,
    or mocking
    in any way –

    for it tears me open
    to watch
    this unstemmable tide –
    this cloying shadow –

    overflow, overwhelm,
    and over-run
    my mother’s body,
    increment by irreversible
    increment.

    I know that one day
    it will swallow her whole.

    and – yet

    my mother has learned,
    and also has determined,
    to live all her days
    unfazed and unintimidated
    by this disease
    which is shaking her
    from the inside out.

    her hands, her arms,
    her fingers,
    move often
    by gestures written
    upon her heart.

    these are pure
    movements
    of love,
    choreographed by
    One who has
    betrothed her to
    Himself.

    Christ it is
    who is present
    in these little steps
    she takes each day –

    baking muffins
    to carefully wrap and
    give away.

    knitting colourful
    patterned shawls
    for little girls
    she knows and loves.

    or small square cloths
    of yarn for washing
    dishes.

    her mouth forms prayers
    for many people,
    many places,
    many needs.

    her head bowed
    in reverence,
    petition, trust.

    her eyes
    taking in the
    precious words of
    scripture.

    her ears
    attentive and quiet,
    always ready
    for careful listening.

    her legs are now
    recalcitrant
    and unpredictable –
    they buckle
    and stall,
    and must seem sometimes
    like heavy pillars
    of stone.

    my mother’s whole
    body is under siege.

    a trembling battle has usurped
    and taken it hostage –
    her earthly tent is
    being beaten and
    battered by the wind
    of life’s tumultuous rain.

    but.

    her real life is hidden
    within
    this faltering vessel of
    fractured clay.

    that which devours her body,
    will never devour
    her soul.

  5. MacKenzie Branch

    @mackenziepauline

    What a beautiful tribute to your mother, Gllen. I am sorry for your loss, but rejoice in the comfort Christ brings.

    Your poem reminds me of something – I recently met a family that had lost their father following a long and difficult bout with Alzheimer’s. He had been a pastor for many years. One of the children remarked that they wondered if his Alzheimer’s was a blessing, in a way, because of how heavy a burden of love and concern he had carried for the people through his years in the ministry. Perhaps he was able to spend the remainder of his time here on earth resting in the peace of the Lord.

  6. Gllen

    Thanks mackenzie pauline.

    I have thought recently about what you mentioned as well. Those who are faithful within the Body of Christ – to love, serve, and care for those under or within their care. Those with huge hearts that break often with the losses, struggles, and difficulties of brothers & sisters in their community.

    It’s another example for me of sehnsucht – the longing for wholeness, completeness – the faithful pilgrimage in the shadows & the dark, as we wait with “passionate patience” for the coming light – for Christ himself, our hope and our glory.

    I’m thankful for the Rabbit Room community that is a place to remember this, and to be encouraged and strengthened to keep on in the way of Jesus. Not being defined by success, as this world so heavily coerces us to think, but rather, to be urged on to faithfulness, no matter what the circumstances or the weather of our lives.

    May we all grow into this – more deeply, and together.

  7. Gllen

    ANDREW,

    Thank you for these. I was not able to take them in properly last week. I have been rereading them again.

    “Wednesday” – with it’s darkness & loss. Yet with attentiveness to friends also in need, and close by.

    And “Maundy Thursday” – with it’s glimpse of a new kind of love with which we are so unfamiliar and can find so difficult to comprehend, let alone live.

    These two sonnets have been a blessing to me today.

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