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.
Jesus is laid in the tomb
Here at the centre everything is still,
Before the stir and movement of our grief
Which bears its pain with rhythm, ritual,
Beautiful useless gestures of relief.
So they anoint the skin that cannot feel
And soothe 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.
Hear Malcom Guite read today’s poems
Today’s sonnets by Malcom Guite are two of fifteen he wrote for the Stations of the Cross which are included in his book Sounding the Sonnets that may be read and heard in their entirety HERE.
Have you ever felt abandoned by God? The disciples must have experienced the lowest day of their lives on Saturday after Good Friday. They had given up everything to follow Jesus and now all they could think of was His death. Worse, in the end, when it really mattered, they scattered and abandoned Him.
Christians grieve when a loved one dies and though it might be tinged with regret, it is never sealed with hopelessness. In The Word in the Wilderness, Malcom Guite writes:
I have tried to reflect a little of this in these two sonnets, which follow in sequence from the one 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.
How has regret from the death of a loved one affected your life?
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Dig Deeper: Literature, Liturgy & Art
Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings. For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.
Photo courtesy Lancia E. Smith
For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.
Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.
Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.