Prayers for Holy Saturday: A Good Poem and Mine

April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday: what a weird liturgical moment. It’s that unexplained double-space between the psalmists lament and prayer of thanksgiving. Just a blank line with no text and everything changes. In the cosmos, we know Jesus is defeating the forces of sin and death, but we’re waiting. Holding our breath, crying, hoping, despairing who knows how to even go about feeling today? I read a great poem for good friday several years ago, Salvator Mudi Via Crucis– and in my sweet-I’m-a-sophmore-in-college-with-lots-of-feelings head decided the best way to process holy saturday would be a poem.

Here is the good poem: (about Good Friday)

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis
Denise Levertov

Maybe He looked indeed
Much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
In those small heads that seem in fact
Portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
A soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clinched its teeth
In a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
That He taste also the humiliation of dread,
Cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
Like any mortal hero out of his depth,
Like anyone who has taken a step too far,
And wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
In the midnight Garden,
Or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
To simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
Not the hideous betrayals humans commit
Nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
Not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
Was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
But this sickened desire to renege,
To step back from what He, Who was God,
Had promised Himself, and had entered
Time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
Up from those depths where purpose
Drifted for mortal moments.


I’m a terrible poet. But I still struggling to get my hands on Holy Saturday and some of these same themes keep popping up. Don’t judge this on the theological terminology or style of poetry, please: I was 19 and painfully fond of parenthetical asides in poetry when I wrote it. I have no idea why. But I’m still kinda partial to the ideas. Anyway- this one’s mine:

Salvatore Mundi: Silence

What came then?
How was it next: when the Face had gone?
Because, what can it really mean;
what remains when the fingers and toes seem to have abandon us?
And what are we to do on the day He leaves his definition
to be a vestige of a oddly written history.
How can this silence, this vast frightening nothingness
signal the return to omnipresence, to Love?
Maybe it is true, their stories of the veil rent into pieces;
perhaps the sky did turn black,
and boil with unspeakable glory (as so many imagine).
But i saw, as Elijah touched, we too will hear.
As the beloved one and the rock, we will see
He is not there.
The crashing and rending and quaking of words is not Him.
He is the silence
where the Woman weeps.
He is the silence
in the rooms of the helpless clinging to one another, locked away.
He Was; Is; will Be, the door never opened.
(the need for such a movement, now dismissed.)
The gates splinter under the weight of glory:
Creator breaks into creature: then assumed, now redeemed.
“It is finished”:



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