In lunar brilliancy they walking show
mid leafy branches’ budding scented bloom
& grasses warmed in vernal sun now groom
Gethsemane, in paschal light aglow.
We waiting here, he forward goes for room
To falling, praying, moaning, sighing, bled
To sobbing, straining, weeping, sweating, red
Till far away is heard the tramp of doom
Apostles wake upon their grassy bed
To find the traitor with the temple guards
Is come. And boldly striding cross the yards
Afore Messiah stop’d he smiling said
Hail Master! Teacher surly me you know.
by words and kissing both the nails in go.
He wash’d their feet & now would make them free:
a mundane miracle will here combine.
The God-Man bids that man on God will dine
& unity in daily liturgy
These common building blocks of bread & wine
our Saviour takes into his holy hands
& those, around him sat, his love commands
in mystic rites to make all men divine.
The Apostolic preaching in all lands
will be enliven’d by this bread. God gives
to Church her dancing food. She moves & lives
By sacraments now altar’d by Christ’s hands.
Salt, flour, water, grapes, & yeast we see
yet very flesh & blood of God they be.
At Table, Christ: Mandatum Novum do
to us that we in love should brothers hold
as He embodies love for us. Thus bold
in love the nations, seeing, might him know.
Example: washing feet in servant’s mold!
To each apostle come in turn: St Pete
refuses God now kneeling at his feet.
“An not I wash you then be gone” is told.
Yet even strengthen’d well this night unmeet
you will deny me thrice. Belov’d take heart:
you show how human weakness plays its part
til providential saving plan’s complete
Reshod thus Peter savéd, wash’d did go
to felling by a maid at sunrise crow.
The actors all are here in place, our play
is set! The curtain ready rises now:
Apostles, Traitor, Priests, & King all bow.
Let us kneel down to watch the passion fray.
Here Pharisees assembled make a vow.
Here Judas strides with kiss through garden’s night.
Here Pilate waits for judging by his light.
Here Christ the Lamb of God all disavow.
Foul Clergy here will mock & slay a blight.
Confus’d Apostles here lost to a man.
Great Romans here made tools in God’s own plan.
Poor Women here will, mourning, get it right.
Tiz God’s victor’ous Coronation Day
when death itself our God by death shall slay!
Now Judas thief & liar, devil, friend
Here come I carefully to you: for pot
& kettle are both black & we are not
That far I think each from the other’s end.
The Priceless One you sold for not a lot:
the price of one escapéd slave. Yet I
just any petty lust or care will buy
with love I owe to him; his love forgot.
Dear Judas, priests through you the Christ did buy
I understand & pity for I fear
That I your course can eas’ly find quite near:
Your steps for hunger’s slake I trod & die.
Lord Christ forbid that I my feet will wend
on damning ways that Satan to me sends.
When trapp’d in sins the night without a moon
is dark: no hope nor freedom found in lust
that fills this moment’s craving only. Trust
Alone in God can make his lovers swoon.
To Christ so now she comes. As come she must
for rest, to whom men come for passions’ fall.
So she whose empt’ing man can’t fill can call
to him whose emptying salvation thrust
to hell and every time of Terra’s ball.
His feet that soundéd first in Eden’s glen
she bathes in tears. She dries with hair & then
anointing them: her love repairs her fall.
Yet Judas fails to see this grace who soon
is damnt as dances she to Jesus’ tune.
Ye scribes & lawyers, hypocrites ye brood
of vipers: pharisees who twirl the law
to lure a proselyte into your maw
then spit out worse; within your precepts stewed!
The Torah’s words from out your crooked craw
draw obligations far too hard to bear.
Our God’s Revealéd words for making fair
you twist in ways that Moses never saw.
But turn ye now from that corrupted fare
& belly up to God’s reforming grace
Which calls the people of another race
to make both one in his redeeming care
The Jews & Gentiles both hath God pursu’d
Would at his table both by Christ include.
All glory laud & honor children sing:
to thee hosanna, Lord, hosanna! Praise
we thee with them, our olive branches raise.
Thy train in triumph through the gate we bring
With garments strewn the road to glory lays:
what ails the crowd that soon they’ll turn away?
Here where we hear hosanna cried today
great hearts will fail as darkness on them preys.
O Lord prevent our hearts that make essay
of crowning Thee as Israel’s King & God
from dancing to temptation’s tunes that prod
like cattle us, thine image thus to slay.
Let us not join them as thy hands they sting
with nails & in our name they kill their king.
Tiz better to have lov’d & lost: so said
the Bard when speaking of the heart’s romance.
What would he say if God & man did dance
As friends til mortal man is stoppéd dead?
Then God can weeping fall in mourner’s trance
While sisters, neighbors, pharisees, & all
will wonder at his healing advent’s stall:
when but one touch restor’d the blind man’s glance.
But God has come prophetic’ly to fall
the gates of death. Our Lover’s voice will part
hell’s ramparts! Raising Laz’rus by God’s art:
The tyrant soon will rule an empty hall.
Here he whom four days dead in darkness tread
Rejoices now and rests in his own bed
I try to get through a little more every year. So, once again, I will try to make the Holy Week Sonnet Cycle complete.
My Lord, always majestic is thy name.
No man may sing thy praises worthily
& mould’ring – wanting words to hear & see
is often in believers’ hearts thy fame.
Still yet we try with prose & harmony
to render mysteries in physic’s space:
depicting love as icons show thy face
to offer latria enfleshedly.
If Donne like saints, though sleeping, lend his grace
unlettered, I make done with pages ink’d
to build in classic form of couplets link’d
& structured verses, thus thy praises trace.
Lest Onan’s songs on formless pride I frame
Creator God the Word my words enflame.
The days of Holy Week have traditional associations in the Byzantine and Western Liturgical traditions. I’ve parsed the Sonnets out according to a hybrid to make the pattern: Saturday before Palm Sunday is Lazarus Saturday in the East. Then Palm Sunday, Holy Monday lectionary in the East is about the Pharisees, then the Harlot who washes Jesus’ Feet on Tuesday. Spy Wednesday in the West is assigned to Judas, and the the Holy Triduum begins with an Interlude, and multiple sonnets for Thursday and Friday. I have finally gotten the sketches of a first Sonnet for Saturday. Three or four are needed! And also a bucket full for Sunday. And one for Thomas Sunday.
Who knows? I might get it done this year. Maybe.