Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week always feel a little unsettling to me. I know what to think about on Sunday. I can focus and meditate on Christ’s journey Thursday, Friday and Saturday. But what about these three unnamed days?
Though there is plenty to read in the Gospels, teaching and events occurring within those few days between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his Passover feast with his disciples, I always still feel a bit unprepared when Maundy Thursday hits, as if I’ve forgotten to get ready.
So, maybe we can start a little earlier this week. For the rest of Holy Week, I won’t be blabbing on and on about whatever deep thought I’m having at the moment. Instead, I’ll be introducing some paintings and poems that have been an important part of my Easter experience over the past few years.
In 2006, our church in Philadelphia commissioned my friend Anna Kocher to produce a series of paintings to help us worshipfully walk through the Stations of the Cross. Since then, her work has lined the hallway at our church each Lenten season, and has been available for guided prayer in the sanctuary every Good Friday. These pieces have been a significant part of my experience of Holy Week for the past three years and I have missed having them in my life during my first season of Lent in San Francisco. So, I’m giving us a glimpse into her series: I’ll be posting a few different images of the paintings, one for each day, here on the blog. I hope each will be something you can spend some time meditating on, allowing God to speak to you, perhaps, in a new way this week.
I’ll also be posting a poem each day to aid us in our meditation on the life of Christ. All the poems, except one, are from a series on the life of Christ called “Descending Theology.” These poems are from Mary Karr’s book Sinners Welcome, a book that every Christian who loves poetry should own and consume as much as possible. (That’s just my humble opinion.)
So, Happy Thankful Tuesday. Today I’m thankful that even on Tuesdays in Holy Week, when we don’t know what to focus our minds on, we can read a poem about the nativity and gaze on a painting of Christ’s arrest and remember that this story we believe in is beautiful and crazy and earthy and capable of changing everything.
* * *Descending Theology: The Nativity
She bore no more than other women bore,
but in her belly’s globe that desert night the earth’s
full burden swayed.
Maybe she held it in her clasped hands as expecting women often do
or monks in prayer. Maybe at the womb’s first clutch
she briefly felt that star shine
as a blade point, but uttered no curses.
Then in the stable she writhed and heard
beasts stomp in their stalls,
their tails sweeping side to side
and between contractions, her skin flinched
with the thousand animal itches that plague
a standing beast’s sleep.
But in the muted womb-world with its glutinous liquid,
the child knew nothing
of its own fire. (No one ever does, though our names
are said to be writ down before
we come to be.) He came out a sticky grub, flailing
the load of his own limbs
and was bound in cloth, his cheek brushed
with fingertip touch
so his lolling head lurched, and the sloppy mouth
found that first fullness–her milk
spilled along his throat, while his pure being
flooded her. (Each
feeds the other.) Then he was left
in the grain bin. Some animal muzzle
against his swaddling perhaps breathed him warm
till sleep came pouring that first draught
of death, the one he’d wake from
(as we all do) screaming.
-Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome