In this poem and reflection, Rev’d Vicky Barrett considers the paradox of the women’s silence after visiting the tomb and meeting Jesus, and the experience of reading in Mark’s Gospel, two thousand years later, of a resurrection which refuses to be silenced.
(a poem based on Mark 16:1-8)
They must do what they can
now the Sabbath is over.
Back to work.
Their oils are sharp and pungent,
Stripping dawn’s thin grey curtain.
Their steps, directed, urgent,
to soothe the scarred body,
move the lovely limbs
lying wound up and wounded
in the dank dark of a borrowed grave.
How? How? the doves cry,
an echo of their anxious words,
the weight of the stone
wedged between them and their love.
as the oils glow like slow amber pools,
spices tease their nostrils.
Tick, tick. Birds shrill the alarm.
Breath snags on a barb.
Surprise? Confusion? Hope? Jealousy?
Has someone come ahead of them
to offer the rituals which are theirs?
Has someone stolen the precious freight
from this stony barque?
Who is this man in white?
What is his news?
Their eyes trace the outline of the tomb.
Not there, where they laid him,
Escaped, unbound, fetterless.
The sun rinses the mouth of the tomb,
A widening ‘O’ of light.
The spices fall to the ground.
Oil finds a new course.
The earth gleams and is fragrant.
They turn and feet flutter a fleeting path
like sparrows’ feathers.
Breath unravels in rags,
muscles shriek with exertion.
The burden of their news
lurches and sways and batters them
mad-eyed with joyous fear.
Teeth chatter riddling messages.
But who would believe these harpies
who say they have seen an angel?
Better to roll the stone back again,
be safe, familiar, silent.
Let the men
wrap the words like oilcloth round the carpenter’s tools,
stitch up the fishing nets
dare to believe
in the terrifying mystery
who comes in majesty
to greet them.
Vicky Barrett Easter 2018
Mark’s Gospel is full of silences, no more so than that of Chapter 16, verse 8:
So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
How is it then, that out of the women’s paralysis of terror and amazement, we find ourselves responding to the good news of the risen Christ today?
We may find ourselves silent, paralysed also by terror, amazement; scepticism or apathy too, perhaps. But the wonderful good news is that Jesus has done this thing anyway; that’s how much he loves us. Our Creator God is able to bring the news of Jesus’ resurrection to the world in spite of us. As Luke puts it when the Pharisees ask Jesus to tell his disciples to be quiet, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
Mark’s Gospel account gives us the encouragement to explore our response, to fill in the narrative gaps and colour them in, to play in the shadows of this amazing message.
I found myself doing this as I prepared for Easter morning and ended up writing a poem.
How can you find your way of expressing a response to this Easter story?