If Ye Love Me

So many ways to wash feet:
the posture, not the precise nature of the action, matters – poised
at ground level, familiar with the dust
and grime of the day’s streets,
outer garments shed to throw off all show,
the creak in the knees accompanying the splash
and the mess of the self washing off in the bowl.

So many ways, yet I
am more comfortable to be Peter:
indignant, swinging
between pride and gung-ho humility,
reserved and haughty in equal measure,
more at home with excuses
than the flagrant shame of love.

If I would be a disciple, I need only start
with the crick in these old, ossified joints
as I teach them to get love’s job done.

Good Friday

Lent ends with a mirror:
I am the mocker, the spitter, the thief.
Like a child resenting their small role in the pageant,
I greet grace with a petulant, What about me?

This is me.
My role is the soldier with the reed and the crown,
the voice crying, Crucify! and, Messiah, come down.
I’m Judas and Pilate, am Herod, am the priests;
am the nails in the feet and the spear in the side,
am the object of all mercy’s most prodigal gifts,
am the face of Christ shining in victory.unnamed

Maundy Thursday

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The Washing of Feet – Sieger Koder
Like Peter, I am thrown.
The new commandment is old – older than water –
but never does it feel
old when it knocks where the heart’s most calloused,
with desert-worn feet, soles encased
in grime and travail.

Water washes, but the command penetrates.
And the action – the knees bent, the teacher’s degradation –
gives flesh to the mandate’s pointed bone,
flesh that will be pierced. May I be pierced.
I need more than water;
I need chisel to my stone.

Palm Sunday

I have been there in the festal throng,
the waving of palms,
the shouting of Psalms:
Hosanna – the highest – hosanna.

And I have felt the surge of pride
to see my king, as prophesied,
come in, triumphantly, astride
his Zechariah-steed, and I
confess that I have hoped to find
what, in the end, was more than I
had ever bargained for.

I’ve been there, too, by the fireside,
warming my hands and telling lies.
I too have hidden in the night,
afraid of my king’s disgrace.

Messiah: my soul is a fruitless figtree.
When you come to your temple, I will wither
at the sight of your certain summer.
Cast off my false foliage, and let me dwell
in your shade when you return.

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Felix Louis Leullier – Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Kyrie in the Desert

Father,
What have I done with the food you gave me?
The bread of life grows mould where I left it.
The leaven of self sickens and spoils.
Puffed up by bread alone, no Word, I am fat and famished.
In the desert of abundance,
Lord have mercy.

Brother,
All the kingdoms of the world dangle before you.
Only a bend of the knee will give them to you.
I bend at the first offer of reprieve.
Forty days can only show my nest of callow vipers.
In the desert of my failing,
Christ have mercy.

Spirit,
You flap your dove’s wings above living water,
Yet I am bent on brackish wastelands.
I draw brine and bile from my spirit’s well.
I vent spleen upon your ever-flowing fountain.
At the oasis of contrition,
Lord have mercy.

The Consolations of Lent

Comfort sits, unexpected,
in our waiting with weakness.
No giant leaps needed, only
the baby steps of the heart
slowly learning contrition.

Begin with incapacity,
then the slow-dawning knowledge
that you are nothing but dust.
Dust transfigures at His breath.
Exhale in the sigh of your Lenten frailty.
Then inhale, inspire.

O brother in our humanity,
Elijah in the desert,
weeping Psalmist of the cross,
You comfort with the fast that says,
Take off your face. Take on mine.
Consolation begins where our pretence dies.

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Marc Chagall, “Jeremiah”

 

L is for learning, L is for Lent

This year I do not so much
give up my temptations as
face the temptation to give up.

Perhaps it was so for the forty desert days
when stone may have seemed
a fair alternative to bread.

Yet stones, when given the chance,
can become a chorus of praise.
So this year I teach stone:

the stone of a heart that says,
“Don’t move me. I’m basking in the sun”;
the stone of fists refusing to open;

the stone of expectation:
“Here I dwell; here I remain”;
the stone that says, “Do not carve your laws in me.”

Can I give up stone?
Better, give up being stone?
Or in surrender change stone into flesh?

I learn again my ABCs.
In the desert, again, I learn to walk;
and then I learn to kneel.