Perhaps more than any other week in the year, Holy Week invites us into the gospel story. As we walk through the week, we step into the story of the final week of Jesus' life and walk through it again: watching, listening, remembering, mourning, loving, praying, confessing, and finally celebrating.
Over the years I've discovered that one of my natural responses to the rhythm of Holy Week is writing, especially the writing of poetry. Most especially the writing of narrative poetry, where I imagine scenes from that final week of our Savior's life on earth, or where I step into the scene in some way.
This year, after listening to a powerful Maundy Thursday sermon, I found myself contemplating how lonely Jesus must have felt in the garden, especially following moments of such deep communion and fellowship in the upper room. Our pastor described the events of the Last Supper as "the eye of the storm" -- so much conflict and pain swirls around that event, both before and especially after, but in many ways the supper itself is a moment of relative peace and calm, as Jesus prepares his friends for what lies ahead and helps them understand what he is about to do.
I found myself thinking about the moments immediately after the Last Supper, as Jesus and the disciples left the upper room and headed toward the garden, back toward the raging storm. This poem (still a draft) is the result. I hope it blesses you on this Holy Saturday evening. And I pray that you will have a joyous celebration of the resurrection tomorrow morning! Oh how he loves us!
The door to the upstairs room
shuts behind them.
The last one out closes it softly,
as though to capture echoes
of the last hymn.
Notes reverberate in their minds,
hum in their hearts,
as silently they file down the stairs,
one by one,
each trekking carefully in the footsteps
of the One ahead,
listening for his voice.
They think they know where
they are going
but aren't fully sure until they see
the looming shapes of olive trees,
dark branches even darker
than the starlit sky above.
He has come to pray --
for guidance, strength, help --
and they mean to keep him company,
to accompany his prayers
with their own whispered petitions.
Only the night is growing cold,
and fear, wonder, sorrow
all press like a blanket
around their wine-warmed bodies
which one by one
drop down and rest --
just for a minute --
only to be dragged beneath
an ocean of sleep.
He is alone. He is left to think
about the cup just handed around
the table, the cup from which
all drank, the literal cup
he will not drink again
until another feast,
far distant but assured.
He is alone, though not alone,
as his prayers rise
like incense in the starry night,
the calm before the storm,
the moment before the breaking wave,
the clutching hand of earth
clasped in the strong hand of heaven.
He feels taut, alert, alive in every
muscle, every sinew, gritty-eyed with pain.
He glances at his scattered friends
who love him so, who mean so well.
But with the world about to quake,
not one of them has stayed awake.