Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lazarus Among the Dead: A Poem for Holy Saturday

This poem was written during the fifth week of Lent, when the gospel of the raising of Lazarus is read either on Sunday or, as this year, on an alternative weekday. It was not written for Holy Saturday, but it seems appropriate as a reflection on one connection between the story of Lazarus of Bethany and the story of Jesus as we recall the line from the creed: "He descended into Hell."

Today I took the book in hand and read
the tale of Lazarus among the dead.

The darkness, gray, is tinted by the stench
of rotting souls. Their faces, white, drift in
and out of sight.
“Here we exist between
the day and night, our twilight timeless. Why?
Oh yes, we know. We are the ruin. Here
the garden stood, and we its trees. You have
heard tell the fruits that we were born to bear:
love, joy, and patience, peace and gentleness,
staunch faithfulness and generosity
and kindness, luminous upon the stem
of self-restraint.
Behold us now: the worm
found invitation in our discontent
with what we were but did not know we were.
We drank the wormwood and the gall, and lo!
the beauty blackened on the branch,
the sweet fruit poisoned to the core, the roots
sunk deep in streams polluted by our choice.
And we are legion. Look: our children’s seed
and theirs, down generations wasted by
our sin.
The tree of life is barred to us,
but we await in this gray world the spill of light
to flow from its pierced fruit.”
The Voice breaks through
their whispers. “Lazarus, come out.” Unbound,
he sees the sun. The Eyes are dark. They know
what Lazarus has seen. The others think
him pale from four long days of silence in
the dark of death. He wishes it were so.

I laid aside the book in cold and dread;
for I had seen my face—among the dead.

Genevieve Glen, OSB; ©2009, Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale CO. Once again the technical limitations of Blogger make it impossible to place the broken lines correctly. Here I have chosen to insert a blank line before each of the lines that should be indented to complete the previous line.

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