Resurrection Sunday – Joyful Easter!

This is the last in a 15-poem sequence I wrote for the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross – a meditation on the events that led up to the joyful morning of the first Easter Day. I hope I’ve captured the joy of the Resurrection. A happy Easter to all who follow this blog, and may joy and hope come to those longing for change and new life.

XV JESUS RESURREXIT SICUT DIXIT –
JESUS HAS RISEN AS HE PROMISED

After the long shadows of a darkened Friday,
After the sorrows of a Sabbath tasting of bitter herbs,
Now leonine light bursts out roaring in a blaze of untamed joy,
In the brazen fire of angels trumpeting over the empty tomb:
For Christ the Lion of Judah has arisen from the gloom.

Proclaim it now across the blank,
Closed rooftops of Jerusalem; shout it now
Over the whitening wheat-fields past the town:
Dry river beds all dusty now shall run with rippling streams;
Young folk shall see visions, old folk dream great dreams.

The grain that the sower planted has sprung up for the harvest;
The bread they broke on Calvary has fed all hungry, humble mouths.
Olives bud to life; once withered branches now grow fruit.
The barren shall bear their babes at last; the Shepherd
Shall find his sheep. The weak—the lame—shall walk and leap.

Our Father’s voice: the deaf shall hear it now unsealed.
Those with deep wounds, with blood congealed,
Those who are frail—all shall be healed.
The tongue of the dumb shall loudly praise him.
For Jesus our Lord from death shall raise them.

Shout it loud across the rooftops of Jerusalem;
Proclaim it over the whitening wheat-fields past the town:
The promise he wrote on our broken hearts,
The promise he made on our inmost parts:
This new-made Covenant—now, even now it starts!

© Lizzie Ballagher

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A Happy Easter holiday to all who follow this blog!

Belief that a man rose from death doesn’t come easily. In the poem that follows I try to chart my own spiritual journey to the place that is Easter.

A Doubter’s Creed

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d meet a keen-eyed king
Come to redeem his people
After all the years of prophecy & promise.
Instead I saw an infant in an ass’s stall
And cows lowing piteously over a starlit manger
Where yet there was no grain,
No corn, no sweet green summer grass,
But only a weeping newborn boy
And his quiet mother in a dusty cloak,

Her womb suddenly empty of her child.

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d greet a loyal lord
Riding in triumph over festal palms
Where massing crowds would bay for him.
Instead I saw a broken hillside
Naked as a dead man’s skull; soldiers dicing
And three men crucified, one bloodied
With a crown of thorns. ‘Jesu, King of the Jews,’
The mocking sign above him read.
And, later, a cave-pocked place they called

His tomb—suddenly empty of his body.

Why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d hail a ravening ruler
With resolute arm upraised in battle:
With two-edged sword to smite them left & right.
Instead they led me to a back-street house
Where cowering men & weary women
Met secretly for breaking bread,
For dipping bitter herbs & sharing wine;
And where that quiet woman sat with them,
Woebegone, still in her pilgrim cloak,

The room suddenly empty of the man they loved.

So why did I come here?
What did I expect to see?
They said I’d see the kingdom come.
I see no cunning kings.
I see no lordly leaders.
I see no raging rulers.
Instead I hear a voice that bids me
Put my hand into his side
And touch the nail-wounds in his bloody palms.
He lives! this Son of Man.
He lives! the King of Heaven.

Filled suddenly with grace, I cry, ‘My Lord. My God!’

© Lizzie Ballagher

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A Shepherd

Walking the South Downs Way last year, we met several shepherds. At this time of year, Easter, I find it moving to think of the paradox of one who is both shepherd and sheep.

Agnus Dei

You do not break the doors down
Of our bolted hearts.
You do not shake the walls down
Of our meagre shells & shelters.
The only way you know,
The only way you go
Into the grounded stable of our lives,
Into the wounded sheepfold of our souls
Is close to earth & down upon your knees.

Then & only then do you stand
In our benighted midst—
Right in the thick
Of your bewildered flock
(The cloven hooves & bleating mouths)
To keep us, Shepherd, in the steady gaze
Of your all-seeing eyes;
To graze us, Shepherd, in the mazy meadows
Of your green & boundless sheep-fields.

Sentinel & watchman, you rise
With lantern lofted high
Amid the mist & darkness
Of our fractured farms
To rescue us, to lift us in your arms.
You heed us, heal us,
Lead us, feed us
And rest your loving cross & crook
Upon our bowing backs.

Hear us, patient Prince with nought but thorns for crown.
Steer us, King & compass, Lord & lodestar clear.
Be near us, Lamb & Shepherd dear.

© Lizzie Ballagher

Easter 2015

 

This Friday IS good.

Crown of Thorns

Head dipped below its slightest weight,
Eyes glazed with double suffering,
Did Jesus dream the garden
Where he played in childhood,
Where damask roses knotted, clotted red & white
Across an arch once crafted by his earthly father Joseph?
Do not believe such maudlin fantasies!

Whatever Pyotr Ilych thought
On looking at the tenth Station (where Christ was stripped
Of all His garments & took on that vicious coronet),
The thorny crown was not a crimson ring of roses;
That so-called garland caused no dainty drops
Of scarlet blood-petals on Jesus’ blessed brow;
It did not smell of sweetness but of sweated, abject anguish.

A parish artist, though (a score of centuries later
In a hidden church among the folded fields)
Conceived a vision of that torment.
In remembrance of that day he made
A wheel of infinite woe, infinite sorrow
On a hoist as high as a gallows tree
Below the stark Alpha of black-block roof beams;

He wove a circle of wooden spikes & branches:
A twist of twigs with stubs & sticks & strands & spines of pain,
A jagged agony & testament to human butchery.
Two thousand years now gone below the bridge Christ built
Between the earth and heaven, between the temple curtain torn in twain,
The crown of thorn still witnesses
The Truth:

Who wept alone in olive dusk above Gethsemane;
Who hung amid the skulls & rubbish on high Calvary;
Who rose, in spite of death; came back to us in Galilee.

© Lizzie Ballagher

Notes
Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky composed a Good Friday anthem for children called “Legend” which was translated into English by W G Rothery. In this song he imagines that the child Jesus gathered roses that would one day form his crown of thorns.

The parish artist is Keith Pettit of Creation Signs, East Sussex, UK.

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