Holy Week — The harrowing

Joseph saw him first,
the man who was an unexpected baby,
boy in a carpenter’s shop,

John, recently passed,
recognized his cousin, playmate,
friend rising from the Jordan
with a dove in his hair.

Then perhaps Abel,
dead since the beginning of brothers —
time not meaning anything in hell —
also, Cain.

Maybe Miriam, playing
the shade of her tambourine,
paused at the shape
of the Word from the beginning,

Isaiah, saw a suffering servant.

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth,
and Bathsheba
reached out a translucent blessing
from his matrilineage,

and thousands upon thousands
of every era and race,
of every faith and way of loving,
manner of life and death,

turned to him.

Peter mentioned in his letter
that Jesus preached,

but not his sermon title —
maybe a familiar parable
or the beatitudes,
or the prayer he taught his disciples.

The dead are already salt of the earth,
and probably know
intimately all four kinds of soil.
and how they’ve treated
the hungry and the naked,
recognized God’s face
in the least,
built their bigger barns,
or put treasure
in right or wrong places
is past for them, as it is for those

we love who have gone before us.

If Jesus had a message
for this sweet and holy Saturday,

I imagine it was the same short homily
he once used before –
talitha cumi – get up little ones.

God, for the communion of saints,
and not so saintly ones, we give thanks,

for they have known in part,
and now they know face to face,
and none is left behind.


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Holy Week — Magi’s return

It was so long ago — a camel’s life.

Balthazar, Melchior and I saw the star,
met near the Euphrates gardens
then month after month we rode,
traveling all night
to Roman territory, Judea.

We stopped in Jerusalem
to see the puppet king,
a different Herod than reigns now
though just as afraid —
aren’t politicians always?
that there might be a another
kind of king.

His advisers directed us
to Bethlehem,
according to their prophets,
but we were wise men enough
to ignore his not-so-cordial invitation
skirting the palace,
on our way home,
so the baby was safe … back then.

Today is my first return
to the Jewish capital in all these years,
but somethings never change.

Me? Caspar. I was the youngest then,
now the only magi left,
but I can’t say I followed a star this time,
more a prayer-sirocco
like the whole world crying
in the desert wind.

His mother Mary
stared at me curiously
when I gave her child myrrh –
royal oil for burying the dead.

I hope she saved it.
She could use it now.

God, we remember all of it today,
for that was what they tried to end.

We stand at a distance,
watching love. amen.

Caspar by Jan van Bijlert


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Holy Week: Passover pilgrim

Only men need to go to Jerusalem
for Passover,
but Mary went
as often as she could,
usually for safety with other Nazarenes
since her Joseph died.

She was there all this week —
saw the parade,
heard about the fig tree.
(Really, Joseph — all carpentry
and no outdoor play
leads to inplanticide.)

Mostly she loved to watch him
in the Temple — not the tantrum
(and that was her fault,
too much singing Magnificat
when he was little) —

but the amazing week of teaching —
authority and taxes
and even the resurrection —

there was nothing he couldn’t answer
about God
by the time he was twelve.

She remembered
being so proud and so very afraid.

Mary felt his eyes on her
as she offered two copper coins.
She had more,
enough for the return trip,
so she didn’t understand why he said —

she put in everything she had.

God, being en-familied
is pride and irritation,
joy, memory, and being so afraid.

Hold us,
that we may ready our knees
to hold your pain
in the bodies of those endangered today.

Emanuel Max, Prague

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Guest post — Daylíns Rufín Pardo, from Cuba

I am grateful to Red Crearte for this post, to Daylíns, theologian and professor from Cuba, for her generosity in sharing it (and the image chosen by her)and Luz for her translation on this Maundy Thursday. 

“La última piedra”

Dame un grito que acusa
un desencuentro
las miradas del odio
setenta veces mas pliegos de leyes
una mujer
un hombre hechos pedazos
el traspatio del templo y su silencio
de ternura
de ausencias
de algún Dios.
Dame la duda que se vuelve dardo
el blanco corazón que se hará blanco,
un rezo a lo inconexo
al sinrazón.

Dame el dolor,
su estaca
y un espacio en la tierra,
y escribiré con ello
un mensaje de Amor incomprensible.

Daylíns Rufín Pardo,
Cuaresma 2019 AD

“The Last Stone”
Give me a scream that accuses
a disagreement
stares of hatred
seventy times more definition of laws
a woman
a man with brokenness
the backyard of the temple and its silence
of tenderness
of absences
of some kind of God
Give me doubt that becomes a dart
the blank heart that will turn white
a prayer for the disconnected
for those with no rationale

Give me the pain
your stake
and a space on earth
and I will write with it
a message of incomprehensible love

Daylíns Rufín Pardo
Lent 2019 AD
translated by Luz Berrios-Taveras

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Prayer because of the Extinction Rebellion

Holy One of many names,

when Earth Day defaults to cloth grocery bags
drinking straws, slightly shorter showers,
and Creation Care to prayers
and general approval
of high school students on strike,

the Extinction Rebellion comes —
to the London Underground
the International Criminal Court
in the Hague,
Ela Park in Los Angeles,
and New York City Hall,
and to hearts fearful and hopeful.

Turn over some tables.
Remind us that your earth
shall be called an Earth of Life
for all people —

and your Resurrected presence
was never mistaken for a politician,
a soldier, even a disciple,
but a Gardener.

Startle us — whether we join
this movement or another —

into caring for the fragile future
of children yet unborn. amen

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Holy Week: The Original Tenebrae

I suppose you wonder why someone my age
was out in the middle of the night.
I’m Joanna. Nickname — Joanna-Always-a-Bridesmaid.
This time it was Hannah – we’re not close,
but we are cousins.
There were ten of us bridesmaids –
pretentious for a sandal maker’s daughter, you think?

I had been sooo busy all day –
a million things to do,
and I just got to Hannah’s house and
into my well-worn bridesmaid dress – hint, hint!
with my lamp but no flask of spare oil.
How was I to know
it’s International-Not-Sharing Day!?

I was exhausted. All right, I fell asleep,
but I wasn’t the only one.
Sol (her fiancé, I don’t really know him)
showed up at midnight – Showtime!
and five of us were out of luck.
The other four took off for their homes.
I wouldn’t dare – my mother
would just kill me
if she knew I was unprepared!

I was looking for an all-night olive-press
when I overheard this deal
going down by the closed market.
That really skanky disciple –
Jesus trusts him with the money,
but I totally did not
feel comfortable around him —
met with Sadducees and the High Priest’s guard
and got cash for betraying Jesus.

Kissing – is that nasty or what?

I was in the shadows and I started to shake.
I was that afraid.
I know I am pretty shallow,
but Jesus is … deep and kind to everyone.
He noticed me once and he’s old – must be thirty.
What kind of friend would betray him?
I just felt sad and sick.

Then I did go
all the way home to my mother.
I didn’t care about her scolding
or the wedding or the oil.
It felt like my lamp went out for good.

God, some of us
are young, foolish, scared,
unprepared to be witnesses,
and with little agency.

Light the path.

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Holy Week: In the Inn

Simon had just checked in
and told the boys they could see the sites
as soon as they washed and ate.

He’d come often from Cyrene,
to trade in the deeply desired medicine
called silphium,
but this was the first time
he had brought Rufus and Alexander.
His wife didn’t like it,
but they were of the age
to learn the faith of their people,
and to really enjoy three weeks
of caravan-life each way.

The Jewish minority in Cyrene was large
and the synagogue beautiful,
but nothing like Passover in Jerusalem.

Simon wanted them to look up to him,
to remember their father,
become good men
full of justice and compassion,
also, to have fun in the markets,
seeing people from the whole world,

to stay far away from trouble
and never get involved with Romans.

Simon of Cyrene washed his face,
rolled his shoulders to ease
travel-weary muscles,

shoulders that would, later this week,
carry a cross,
in front of his two boys,

who would always remember,
and become good men.

God, call me out of the crowd,
to become involved.

Remind me —
children are always watching.

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