Holy Week Poems
Author: Capuchin Friar David Hirt professed Perpetual Vows last July and is now a Spiritual Director and supervisor, as well as interim Campus Minister, at St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Mt. Calvary, WI. He obtained a Masters of Divinity degree from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Before joining the Capuchins, David completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Scenic Design at Wayne State University in Detroit. He is a published poet and an amateur artist.
The taste of hosannas is still on my lips,
the smell of the palms as they patter against
the cloudless blue sky of Jerusalem’s day
when David’s own scion comes riding a colt
and prophesy seems to arrive as we hoped
while children, the children, all sing him their psalms
and stones lying silent could echo their songs,
“Hosanna! Hosanna to David’s own son!”,
when everything’s changed. The Messiah we have,
he isn’t the one that we want; not the king
who’ll ravage our foes and will raise up the House
of God: the grey temple we built with our hands.
A tremor now passes throughout the crowd come
to celebrate Passover; start the great feast
of Memory held in the fullness of time
and lived in again, in eternity Lord,
and “Crucify! Crucify,” echoes on still.
It bounces off stones and it shivers my soul.
(For Monday of Holy Week)
You came into our life on feet
like dusty heartbeats, beating bare,
your human heart out-pouring love
and life for one whom even death
itself could not keep back from you.
And I have nothing worth your gift;
incomp’rable, to place into
your hands but my most costly thing;
a poor excuse compared with All.
This earthen vessel, feminine,
I break before your dusty feet
and pour its oil, perfumed and rich,
to cleanse the dust from calloused toes
and wipe them, intimate, with hair
that just a spouse should see and fear
I intimate your death. This gift,
this chrism meant for you alone
lifts up its heady scent and fills
this house like prayer, confirming dust
with sanctity and all because
you came into my life on feet
like dusty heartbeats beating bare.
(For Tuesday of Holy Week)
Forgiveness, Lord’s a morsel dipped
in wine and handed, sopping, to
he who betrays you, who can’t see
the gift of you that’s placed in hands
that many times have compassed yours
and shared your work and those of whom,
though near you now, too soon will run
when garden depths of olive peace
are broken by the tramp of feet
and fire brands and weapons’ clash
that -- angry turn-coats -- heal no harms,
or one who in his fear denies
at sunrise what should be proclaimed
and led from dark with cock’s bright crow.
Forgiveness, Lord, is like an ear
restored to one who yet may hear.
Thirty Silver Coins
(For Wednesday of Holy Week)
So what is one man’s life, Oh Lord,
But thirty simple silver coins:
An honest shepherd’s promised wage,
To one who cannot see the worth,
Incomp’rable, of one who’s shared
His cup and dish? Is money all
That friend can see? Who deems, we find,
A friendship poor commodity?
What price to buy a potter’s field,
Who works the clay just as he wills
To form an earthen vessel meant
To hold its chrism and to crack
And bless the dusty feet of God?
What price for foreign souls to find
A place of rest in Israel
But thirty simple silver coins.
(A Poem for Holy Thursday)
And everything is upside down,
like faces mirrored in a bowl:
an earthen vessel, roughly formed,
that's full of water while the one
who once was robed, incomp'rable,
in light removes his outer robe
to tie a tow'l, a servant's garb,
around his waist and stoops to wash
his foll'wer's feet of traces from
the dusty Roman roads they've walked.
Yes everything is upside down
for whom in all this world would like
to think that him whose praise we sang,
"Hosanna to King David's son,"
should stoop to take a servant's part.
Oh we would rather he should reign
on high with us at his right hand.
But Servant Lord, incomp'rable,
you call us to remove our pride,
an outer robe, and stoop to wash
all others' feet: humility,
and thrust down deep our dusty feet --
to take the love you offer us --
into the bowl reflecting you.
And Everything Begins
(A Poem for Good Friday)
And everything, O Lord, begins
in gardens in their olive peace
where earthen vessels, suff'ring cups,
pour out their blood and sweat and tears
for what can any vessel be
but what it is and what's inside --
for both make its quididity --
and be poured out upon the ground.
"Oh let this cup you offer pass."
Yes everything, O Lord, begins
in gardens where the tramp of feet
and fires break the sleeping night,
where silv'ry swords are pulled in haste
to strike despite a cleansing rite:
incomp'rable. But healing reigns.
Humility is bound and led
to be condemned by priestly hands.
"Shall I not drink my Father's cup?"
Here everything, O Lord, begins
on courtyard stones in startled night
where people gather, intimate,
and whisper 'round the fires there
in pockets formed of earthly light
while Light itself is struck for truth
and mankind seeks but to condemn
those seeking warmth before cock crow.
"One man should die that Man may live."
And everything, O Lord, begins
on Roman stones all roads approach
where Truth, incomp'rable, is tossed
and questioned by the Law while one
Barabbas, sinner, gains his life.
The Life is mocked in purple robes
and beaten, scourged, (O healing stripes),
his features marred, condemned to die.
"And I am like a broken dish."
Now everything, O Lord, begins
on Roman roads, unconq'rable,
with wooden beams that cross the back,
with angry stones and wounded knees
and women pouring out their tears
like earthen vessels, feminine,
t'anoint the face they cannot reach,
the dusty feet, the rough cut cross.
"It's our infirmities he bore."
At Golgotha, as noon begins,
his clothes are stripped, his naked form
exposed to shame. Our Servant Lord
his hands are pierced and bound to boards.
Then, lifted high, they lift him wine
from earthen jugs to quench his thirst,
the wine which tells his kingdom come.
And bowing down his breath's released.
"Oh Father it is finished..."
Oh naked Christ exalted now
and emptied out upon the cross,
your beauty is so far beyond
what we would deem as beautiful.
Incomp’rable, your face is more
than we can bear. It startles hearts.
And pierced by spear your blood pours out
with water from your wounded side
to bathe your feet and dusty earth.
"Oh Pilate, let me lift him down."
And now the cross is quitted: bare;
its wood blood-stained and left behind.
Now like a vessel, earthen, dry
your body's chrismed in fine myrrh.
It's linen wrapped and soon entombed:
its Sabbath rest 'mid garden stones.
And everything, O Lord begins
in gardens in their olive peace.
(A poem for Holy Saturday)
Against All the Dark
(A Poem for Easter Vigil)
Against all the dark: empty waste without form
surrounding the church, where all liturgy starts,
A fire is lit to rekindle our hearts
and harkens us back to the Word that was then
and comes throughout time in events of the lives
of God's Holy People: in water that pools
in basins of earth there beneath the sky's dome,
a ram that is offered, a holocaust sent
to save a first born and to promise a world,
and wind like the Hand of the God who will save
that makes of the waters a wall and a path
for God's chosen people to enter the waste,
a baptism, Lord, to encounter with you
in covenant ties. At the fire we bless;
your people, the candle: the Light of the World,
and trek in with tapers: a sign of our lives,
we light from the source we acknowledge in you.
And all of those fires are one and the same.
We sing our Exultet. We marvel at how
one light shared by many can brighten the world