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Stations of the Cross 13-14: This Is Ground Zero, Emptiness and Space

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.

The pregnant silence of the Cross becomes the heavy silence of the tomb. Love lies buried, encased in the coldness of stone. Yet death’s weight cannot hold him, for his body has been sown into the earth as the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies. We have only to wait with patience and with hope for the seed to bud, and blossom, and burst forth from the tomb in newness of life.

XIII. 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.

XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Here at the centre everything is still,
Before the stir and movement of our grief
That 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.

© 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: Holy Saturday

Featured Image: Filippino Lippi, Deposition form the Cross, c. 1506; Source: Wikimedia, PD-Old-100. 

Carolyn Pirtle

Carolyn Pirtle is the program director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and a composer of liturgical music.