Holy Week Sonnets


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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.

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?

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.

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.

Andrew Peterson is a singer-songwriter and author. Andrew has released more than ten records over the past twenty years, earning him a reputation for songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. As an author, Andrew’s books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga, released in collectible hardcover editions through Random House in 2020, and his creative memoir, Adorning the Dark, released in 2019 through B&H Publishing.


  1. mackenziepauline