A Poem for Holy Week

“Good Friday” by Christina Rossetti speaks to me this Holy Week. Written in 1862 and now in the public domain, this poem is a devotional, self-reflective piece.

“Am I a stone?” she asks–and I think of the heart of stone turned hard by compassion fatigue and so unmoved by suffering.

“Am I a sheep,” I echo–following the good Shepherd of my soul?

And how might any of us be transformed from stone to sheep except by the work of God who never gives up on us?

Yesterday in my Palm Sunday sermon on Luke 19:29-40, I noted how the crowds welcomed Jesus into the city of Jerusalem with shouts of praise:

Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!

When some of the Pharisees complained to Jesus and told him to stop his disciples from crying out, Jesus replied:

I tell you,
if these were silent,
the stones would shout out.

Maybe a stone is not so unfeeling after all.

Read Christina Rossetti’s poem and decide for yourself.

Good Friday

by Christina Rossetti

Am I a stone and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in the starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon —
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more,
And smite a rock.

 

 

Writing/Reflection Prompt: What Scripture texts, poems, and songs enrich your experience of Holy Week this year?

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10 thoughts on “A Poem for Holy Week

  1. April, thank you for sharing this moving poem by Rossetti. I have not read it before, and copied it into my diary, to meditate on it during these days before the resurrection.

    1. You’re so welcome – I haven’t read much of Christina Rossetti’s poetry, but this one was such a find that I wanted to share it. The poem makes me curious to read more of her work too.

  2. I too have not read this poem by Rossetti before. I wonder if it, like other Rossetti poems, has been captured in song. I’ll do a little research on that. Thank you, April for sharing these beautiful thoughts as we enter Holy Week.

  3. Hmmm…wondering about the song also.
    I love Christina Rossetti, and this is one of her poems I’ve not found before. As a stony New Englander, I completely identify with that voice from the foot of the cross, watching without tears. Always I wonder how much is culture and how much is detachment.

    1. Hi Michele – I’m not aware of any song, but I do love this poem. Whether from a sense of personal detachment, or culture, or compassion fatigue, or something else, I can identify with that voice too. Most of all, I love how it ends with a note of hope that God will meet us where we are.

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