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Stations of the Cross 11-12: His Final Breath Breathes and Bears Us

Throughout this Holy Week, we are going to be sharing a series of poetic meditations on the Stations of the Cross by Malcom Guite. An Anglican priest-poet currently serving as Chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, Guite has published eight books of his poetry, with two more forthcoming. His collection Sounding the Seasons comprises sonnets composed for various feasts and seasons throughout the liturgical year, including this series. We are grateful for Guite’s kind permission to share these sonnets on Church Life Journal.

At the moment of Jesus’ Death during the proclamation of the Passion, the Church bids us kneel, silent in the face of so great a mystery. With silent hearts, then, we ponder the Light that darkness cannot overcome, the Love that gives unto the end, the Death by which death dies. “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”

XI. Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross
See, as they strip the robe from off his back
And spread his arms and nail them to the cross,
The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black,
And love is firmly fastened on to loss.
But here a pure change happens. On this tree
Loss becomes gain, death opens into birth.
Here wounding heals and fastening makes free,
Earth breathes in heaven, heaven roots in earth.
And here we see the length, the breadth, the height,
Where love and hatred meet and love stays true,
Where sin meets grace and darkness turns to light,
We see what love can bear and be and do.
And here our Saviour calls us to his side,
His love is free, his arms are open wide.

XII. Jesus dies on the cross
The dark nails pierce him and the sky turns black,
We watch him as he labors to draw breath.
He takes our breath away to give it back,
Return it to its birth through his slow death.
We hear him struggle, breathing through the pain,
Who once breathed out his spirit on the deep,
Who formed us when he mixed the dust with rain
And drew us into consciousness from sleep.
His Spirit and his life he breathes in all,
Mantles his world in his one atmosphere,
And now he comes to breathe beneath the pall
Of our pollutions, draw our injured air
To cleanse it and renew. His final breath
Breathes and bears us through the gates of death.

© Malcolm Guite from Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012, www.malcolmguite.com

Editorial Note: During the month of March, Church Life will be considering the many ways in which the sacrifice of the cross shapes all aspects of the theological imagination (click here for the other pieces in this series). The other Stations of the Cross meditations can be found here.

SEE ALSO:

Music of Holy Week: Good Friday

Featured Image: Jacek Andrzej Rossakiewicz, Ukrzyżowanie, 1990; Source: Wikimedia, PD.