The Second Day (Holy Saturday)

Probably the first “liturgical” poem that I wrote was on Easter Saturday about six years ago. I had recently read Bruce Dawe’s marvellous “And a Good Friday was had by all” and, having been struck by the immediacy of his language and the power of his imagery, I felt moved to write something similar. I began by wondering: how would the disciples have felt while waiting out that Sabbath immediately after Jesus’ death? How, in particular, would Peter have felt, knowing that he had betrayed his Lord, not knowing how it would all turn out, having to his knowledge no opportunity to remedy what he had done?
 
It wasn’t an especially good poem, but it started me on a process of imaginatively approaching Scripture and using poetry as a means of doing this, a practice which is now a regular part of my life. Today’s poem, another Easter Saturday piece, recalls some of those original thoughts about what it might have meant to wait and rest on what must have been for Jesus’ followers the most painful and disappointing of Sabbaths.
 
The Second Day (Holy Saturday)
 
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Collect of the Day)
 
The tree is felled, but its stump remains,
           Waiting, in the soil.
And we in our waiting sing muted refrains,
The cries of parched soil longing for rain
            And waiting in our toil…
 
The branch that grew from Jesse is severed;
            The Sabbath sits in tears.
Jerusalem’s daughter, still undelivered,
Looks silent on her rotting vineyard
            And mourns her broken years.
 
And Jonah’s sign lies buried in the deep;
           The whale’s belly churns.
The women beat their breasts while hope, asleep,
Lies in the earth with promises to keep;
            The week adjourns…
 
Could we, in our weeping, call this to mind,
            Like dew on each new day?
Never-ceasing steadfast love still binds
Us in its grasp which, ever-knowing, finds
            Us when we turn away?
 
The tree is felled, but its stump remains,
            Waiting for the dawn.
And we in our Sabbath sing muted refrains,
Longing faintly for our king who reigns
            Through every crying morn…

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