In February 2022, I was asked to write two poems for the Stations of the Cross at my parish, Good Shepherd Rosemont in Pennsylvania. Fr. Kyle Babin specifically requested I write the first and fifth. But as happens with me, I wince at the thought of doing anything incompletely, so I embarked on writing all fourteen. When I mentioned this to Fr. Kyle and offered to make available to him any of other stations which he had missing, the eleventh and twelfth were added to the list of poems which were to be used in Good Shepherd’s liturgy throughout Lent 2022. And then, by Ash Wednesday, I had sent Fr. Kyle a total of ten of the sonnets for use. Though treated somewhat separately in this original context, I am adamant that all fourteen belong together.
I pray that these help you, and those around you, concentrate on the work of Love performed in Christ, and feel the weight of all matters being consumed in Him.
Katherine Apostolacus Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, USA Lent 2022
Station I. Jesus is Condemned to Death
“What is truth?” pondered the imperial
Hand being washed of Christ’s imminent blood.
This, the wooden plot and arterial
Plan, He saw ere the incipient
Flood, Ere the creation of material;
Whose death was opted in by love,
Scorn of men and outcast of His people,
Who spent drops of blood for thy lowly love.
“Death to the quiet and unelected King,”
The Beloved sought for crucifixion.
The pending Victim knew what fate would bring,
Subject to a system of conviction;
Facing death so we, upon ascending,
May love the Love there affixed the Stations.
On Pavement mosaics, where verdicts rang
Long before Christ, caromed accusations.
How many kings like Him suffered the pangs
Of incensed, indifferent lacerations?
He awaited the scourge of lupine fangs;
This was their idea of revolution.
Barabbas left the guards, with back brutal
And his hair disheveled, altogether
An omen of Christ’s approaching prelude.
And the room reveled as the so-called “better”
Israelite rejoined the multitudes.
Still you can hear Mary’s cries rising through
The clerestories, such as mercies do
The mysteries which inhere in the Groom.
Station II. Jesus Takes up His Cross
The cross laid across His accosted spine,
Like a compass, pointing to Golgotha.
Splinters impressed on Him the cost of time;
This is the origin of the gothic.
Splinters like spires, so Love requires
One to love first and to love so perfect.
The crucial orientation of pyre
Rested as burden along the Lamb’s neck.
The needle jittered with each trembling step,
Fixated on the waiting bitter end.
The weight, the pull, and the stomach of debt
Obeyed no confession but that of sin.
The place, the skull, and the promise of death
Made no concessions for consolation.
Station III. Jesus falls the first time
The form of genuflection incarnated
Thence, and made genuine our worship.
Torn ligaments, torn for the consternated,
Failed Him, thus engendering contortion.
The first descent recalled Adam and Eve,
Our sorry parents, as Stations worsened.
From dust to dust, this portent we believe,
Like dust in His knees duly proportioned.
Ash to ash, agony burning His back
Like every flame thitherto and since.
Lashes last much longer than whipping snaps
For they linger in the wound and the wince.
Will He die right there, where He hath collapsed?
In any frightful case, thy fall is His.
Station IV. Jesus meets His afflicted Mother
That morning, when the Immaculate mourned
Flesh of her blessèd flesh seizing and scorned,
The sun rose as if to mock darkened earth
And take stock of the dying Son and mirth.
“Have mercy, O God, for the sake of me.”
And Jesus heaved with His belaboured breath
“For thy ruin is as deep as the sea
To watch, impotent against, thy Son’s death.”
Then the Star of the Sea so glorious,
At the Passover of Jerusalem,
Had her heart pierced by the gladius,
For all that was His, He carried in His hands.
This Mother became His encomiast:
“Alas, my soul doth magnify the Lamb.”
Station V. The Cross is Laid on Simon of Cyrene
The greatest Mass is born of sacrifice,
Offered like the weight on that Simon’s back.
Stay thy hand, if thy lack may suffice
For salvation, abating blinding facts
Which reveal our part in suffering plights.
The heartache, the horror, the heartless act
Had heaped upon the Heart of love and life,
Who then hemorrhaged along His fateful path.
The gravity of our iniquity Is too much to bear in isolation.
Lightening loads is Love’s propensity,
For He limped on despite His abrasions.
Such is the abounding intensity
Of grace for all of God’s good creation.
Station VI. A Woman wipes the face of Jesus
Mercy dripped from the crown of thorns, forming
A crimson veil down His crestfallen face.
His vision obscured and good grace warning
Of mercy’s cost, Veronica kept pace,
Offered her veil though the day was warming.
She approached Jesus and the cloth embraced
His countenance like sand upon mooring.
Giving veil for veil, the very icon
Of Love emerged on Veronica’s cloth,
Soon to be the vicarious bygone.
The ironic sign which the thorncrown wrought
Inspired her: “my heartbeat is Thy pawn.”
Thus iconic wine stained the lady’s thoughts.
Station VII. Jesus falls a second time
The second stumble is oft much the worse,
Like mistaking folly and repeating—
A fitting start when carrying Man’s curse,
As the Messiah was so depleting
With memory set on Abel and Cain
And ever-faithful guard of Mercy’s mark.
Vanity founded the vagabond’s pain,
Insanity the incredible dark.
The earth on His knees was like emery,
Abrading against the subtler kind
Which may be called the iron memory.
Every acerbic descent brought to mind
Our restitution as a reverie.
No one, it is said, shall be left behind.
Station VIII. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
Arrested in their trembling marrow,
The trailing women bewailed their frail lead.
Blessed are the wombs that never bare though
Their longing aches within them. Shall they plead:
“Make us catacombs, our daughters barrows.
Save the future, lest mortally they bleed,
Or else enshroud us with all Thine arrows.
Shred us, O Lord, as the tectonics seethe.”
“Prepare thyselves, dears, to be made martyrs,
Jesus spake to the women, “for the day
Shall come when Jerusalem is ruined
And faithful shall fall, who cannot barter.
When all shadows are uncovered in place
All hills overturned, then the New begins.”
Station IX. Jesus falls a third time
The dust of His city coated His throat,
While, like the Psalmist, He laid prostrate
And His maligned soul cleaved to it and choked;
The beam reclined on Christ’s embittered state.
The timeworn tectonics of the third fall
Shook the ground beneath, commanding silence,
The catatonic, the wormwood and gall,
And beauty betrayed for rabid violence.
If He fell back in Mary’s uterus,
The rarefaction might be less tragic,
Land might become pure as it was prior,
Returning to time more susurrous.
But a purpose awaits the dramatics,
Like whispers making their bed in briars.
Station X. Jesus is stripped of his garments
The body and soul are lovers betwixt
Sharing their stations; thus were both stripped bare.
The garments of Him, the fabrics unmixed,
Were each one given to each legionnaire;
Likewise they rationed out His majesty,
Casting their lots for the naked truth’s cure—
Haphazard investment in tragedy
For Christ’s last raiment and vestiture.
Thus unclad, unadorned, and unconsoled,
The lovers were soon to return to dust,
In their mutual and suffering role.
Said both, while cloaked in nothing but trust,
The Soul to Body, and Body to Soul:
“Till death us depart, I plight Thee My troth.”
Station XI. Jesus is nailed to the Cross
Horizontal on the wood, arms aflare,
Oppressive sun lightened the ingressions
Where horror, wielded by the legionnaires,
Would then enter Christ’s articulations.
God said, “Let there be light,” and iron sparks
Leapt from the nails securing Him thereon—
A flash in the scope of history’s dark
Dash for distance from the Blessèd Black Swan.
The legion raised up the bloody crosses
Which adorned the crown of that mortal hill.
Such a monument to the end of time
Gleamed in the warm light of final causes—
Eulogy of the kind of Love which wills
To show consummate Mercy’s writhing spine.
Station XII. Jesus dies on the Cross
A canvas of the dying Lord was the felled tree:
“Behold thy son! And behold thy Mother!”
Blood splattered for the abstract masterpiece;
These our gravest deeds, thy art is murder.
The darkness and panic consumed the land.
Every glint of hope dripped into their hands—
Marine creatures out of their element
Soon to be swallowed by Leviathan.
From His gasping, evacuating veins
Poured blood of covenant, water of womb,
The passing of the vacuous and vain.
He could not avoid the void and the tomb,
Nor the scourges of the ones who inveighed.
Giving the ghost to God, thus was His doom.
Station XIII. The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of His Mother
“O Bone of my bones and Flesh of my flesh,
‘Whom I unworthy hold here in my hands,’
Soaking my simlah and pressed to my breast,
I’ll hold Thee in my heart as long as I can.
Thou art everything treasured in my heart.
The merging seas of my Love and the grave
Make haste for history’s most gruesome arts.
Emergencies end with Sheol’s conclave.
Life hath been stripped of all delicacy,
Of all tenderness and felicity.
Permit us never to separate,
Thy mother and Thy Body sacrosanct.
The gravest sorrow is set to retell:
My soul doth magnify Emmanuel.”
Station XIV. Jesus is laid in the tomb
Yet to avert the encroaching Sabbath,
Joseph the Arimathean took Him,
The Corpse which Satan hath ravaged,
Down from the menacing cross which fastened.
In a garden, in the sepulchre’s nest,
Then slept the meaning of “Emmanuel.”
May we gain courage with a fuller chest
To love the yearning of lost Israel.
Preparing for the shiva’s litanies.
Nicodemus brought spices to enfold.
Loving sorrow makes for growing nettles,
Powerless to oppose death’s tyranny,
When the stone is rolled before the threshold
And the dust entombed quietly settles.
From loosened skin, His warmth leaked on the stone.
Is salvation now a muted action,
The putrefaction of the blessèd Bones?
Society’s worth split into factions?
Is piety’s wit impressed by clones?
Will rigor mortis require redaction?
None can tell proudly; no, not she alone.
It may well be shrouded in the Passion,
Or something gracious still yet to be shown.
Will despair replace the Body’s fraction?
Will heartbreak survive the dolorous moans?
The loving Monarch, who returned to dust
Yet promised to reign from a fuller throne,
May still show to us what always He was.