Wounds of a Friend

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” – Proverbs 27:6

I was asked over this past Lent to write a poetic reflection on the five wounds of Christ for a Maundy Thursday service at our church. Generally the “five wounds” refer to the pierced hands, feet, and side of Jesus, which have been used throughout church history as the focus of a prayer meditation.

This is a five-part poem: one for each wound. And, since I contend that the crown of thorns should constitute a sixth wound, each part ends with a variation of the same coda, focused on the crown, which I envision as both a symbol of the Eucharist and of the Church.

Last note: I decided against placing images throughout the post, so as not to interfere too much with the imagery your mind will naturally make as you read. I know that’s a major blog faux pas (especially on a such a long piece), but feel free to take your time with it. Read it in installments. It’s meant to be a meditation.

~

Pt. I: Pierced Right Hand

Mighty is the arm of our Lord—
the Right Hand of God is
a rampart for war,
a refuge in storm,
a reckoning force.
He reaches out in strength—
his Right Hand extended:
each fingertip, glorious and strong;
each sinew signals the victory song;
each tendon ripples and strains
as the nations quake & the earth shakes—
yet he is restrained…
An iron stake;
his palm pierced through—
it can’t be true,
yet he remains…

Why does our sovereign Shield,
our God of glory, yield
instead of deal
recompense?
O, Omnipotence, pleased to be crushed;
all authority emptied, as a hush
falls over the Throne
at God’s Right Hand.
See his outstretched arm—
(O our heavenly King!)—
his mighty wing pinned down,
as blood like sin pours out
and dampens hallowed ground—
a light in shadow, found:
an ugly promise, a lovely curse.
We are dust and dirt,
empowered as we’re broken down;
perfected in his weakness,
we suffer his strength. Together
we’re partakers of his nature,
breaking the same
at his Table.

The Holy Robe of your burdens I bear;
the Royal Crown of my wounds you wear.
Twisted together, your rough edges entangled in my thorns;
we eat and drink by the Pierced Right Hand of our Lord.

~

Pt. II: Pierced Left Hand

Beloved, look upon the Lover
of your soul, covered
in curses, steeped
in dark wine. How can we
find rest beneath
the shadow of such wings?
His tender touch brings
life where none grows,
but in a Place of Dry Bones
hangs our wilting Bridegroom—
as Light breaks,
death blooms.

Our eyes, fixed
on his Pierced Left Wrist—
a wasted wound, devotion entombed.
A quick tryst
with thirty pieces
made more sense;
the debt repaid
with frivolous kisses:
a whore’s penance.
The wounds of our Friend,
betrayed for filthy riches.
Should have stayed in, but instead paid out;
now we’re left with what we’re left with:
the sound of silver and a consumed conscience.
Love lost to lust:
the cost of trust was just too much for us.

But see!—
the splayed fingers
of his Pierced Left Hand
display a bloodied wedding band!—
a costly wound, a promise exhumed:
he will betroth us to himself forever.
Love broken, communion restored;
harlots form a Bride wherever the Blood is poured.
We’re the Beloved of our Lord, together;
what God has married, no one can sever.

The Holy Robe of your burdens I bear;
the Royal Crown of my wounds you wear.
Twisted together, your rough edges entangled in my thorns;
we eat and drink by the Pierced Left Hand of our Lord.

~

Pt. III: Pierced Right Foot

His Right Foot is a sure
foundation, secure
and unwavering,
faithful in everything.
He prepares our steps,
keeps our feet from faltering; we are set
upon the heights,
and equipped for the climb.
He’s our Rock, and
he will not be moved.
Though the oceans rage
and the earth gives way,
though the heavens may split,
the whole universe fray,
he’s dug his heels in, now:
he will not be moved.

As the nail goes through
into the wormwood beam,
from his Pierced Right Foot
flows a crimson stream,
and as he cries:
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!
            we realize
he will not be moved.
The line, drawn;
his Foot, planted
firmly in place.
We’re tossed by winds and waves,
every prophecy dims and fades,
but the greatest remains:
he will not be moved.

And as the sky goes black
and the moon turns red,
as he gives his life,
as they break our Bread,
we are crucified with Christ;
we will not be moved.

The Holy Robe of your burdens I bear;
the Royal Crown of my wounds you wear.
Twisted together, your rough edges entangled in my thorns;
we eat and drink by the Pierced Right Foot of our Lord.

~

Pt. IV: Pierced Left Foot

The scene
defies vocabulary:
brutal, horror, tragedy.
Words
confine reality
better than they define it—
poetry does violence;
the Spirit groans.
What can be said
of Beauty, silenced…(anyway)…?
He dances, though he is lifeless.
Is it movement, or
merely that
we are moved by his stillness?
Beckoned to erupt
like a fountain of yearning
to see those precious Feet
on a mountainous journey
again, with a satchel full of stories
soon to be told—the dust of his Feet,
unable to soil
the splendor of his beautifully good news.

Words take on flesh in his veins;
verses spill like blood
from his Pierced Left Foot.
The world floods with wonder
and cannot contain
the stories, which self-compose
in his name. His wounds proclaim
peace for the anxious,
greet the grieving with gladness,
declare deliverance for the captive,
bring forth beauty from the broken
with every spoken word.
We are the parchment to his sacrificial ink,
forever engraved by the strokes of his quill;
forming a one-Word narrative without an end,
we groan with the Spirit, our movements, still.

The Holy Robe of your burdens I bear;
the Royal Crown of my wounds you wear.
Twisted together, your rough edges entangled in my thorns;
we eat and drink by the Pierced Left Foot of our Lord.

~

Pt. V: Pierced Side

The final blow:
blood and water flow
out,
and down.
Weirdly reminiscent of a wedding—
his first miracle; now
we’re waiting for his last.
His earthen vessel, cracked,
and the New Wine flows
out,
and down.
His Pierced Side splits
a new kind of Red Sea;
will we find freedom
when we pass through,
or yet another throne
to be subject to
(besides our own)?
He came by water
and was called “Beloved Son,
whom I love”—
our unbelief, baptized
by the descending Dove.
Now he comes by blood
and is called “the Lamb of God,
who takes away our sins”?—
but is this what he meant
by “new covenant”?
We saw—we see—
the water and the blood;
the Spirit testified,
and these three all agree,
but until we touch his Side—
until we feel his wounds—
truly,
we will not believe.

Yes, he replies.
Truly feel my wounds;
then go and do likewise.

The Holy Robe of your burdens I bear;
the Royal Crown of my wounds you wear.
Twisted together, your rough edges entangled in my thorns;
we eat and drink by the Pierced Side of our Lord.

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