Maundy Thursday ~ calm before the storm and a sense of foreboding
Some years ago now, I wrote a poem that still haunts my own memory, if that doesn’t sound too self-obsessed. I was walking home late at night after attending a Maundy Thursday vigil and as I walked through our quiet village, I smelled lamb cooking at the Indian takeaway and it set a train of thought running that resulted in me coming in and scribbling down the following prose poem.
It’s a still night, the warm air filled
With the hot greasy scent of a thousand meals.
Glad I didn’t have to cook tonight;
I know lamb is traditional but it seems so unfair:
That little life cut short just for us.
I shouldn’t be here; they said no.
He didn’t, of course; he never does.
But I’m here anyway.
Maybe he knows; they don’t.
Look at them, sleeping like babies!
He wasn’t himself tonight, seemed sad.
Someone said he’s paranoid,
Expecting betrayal at any moment.
“Won’t be me”, that’s what Peter said.
He can’t help boasting but it’s sad.
He’s like a big hairy dog pretending to be brave-
One sniff of a wolf and he’d be off!
Anyway, I’m worried.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned,
It’s this: men can’t be trusted.
I shouldn’t be here: but someone should,
And since they’ve all dozed off
There’s only me, wide-awake in the bushes.
Nothing I can do but wait;
This mood of his will pass,
It always does.
But he does look so sad
And I wish-
But that’s not to be.
I’m so tired too.
I don’t know why I’m here;
I don’t understand half of what he says
But while he says it, it sounds so right.
Pity not everyone agrees.
If I close my eyes, just rest them, mind,
Just for a moment or two.
It’s been such a long day.
I won’t sleep, not like the others.
Not sleeping, just resting my eyes,
I’d been thinking about the other ‘actors’ in that drama so many centuries ago, wondering how they’d seen it all, living it moment by moment without knowing the eventual outcome. I identified with those shadowy figures that we hear mentioned and who played a pivotal role in the Easter story and yet whose own voices have never been heard. As I smelled the hot curry smell, I thought about the women who cooked and cared for Jesus and the disciples and started wondering what they had truly been thinking, that night before the Passover, so many centuries ago. We don’t know who they all were, Mary Magdalene is often suggested as one of the inner circle; she has always struck me as girl with resources and I began to wonder whether she would have sneaked after the disciples who were invited to pray with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.
So into that darkened garden I crept, my hands still slightly greasy with lamb fat and olive oil from the shared meal and my eyes heavy with tiredness. I knew things were changing, sensing the storm coming like a weather sense, and yet, hoping and hoping that nothing bad was going to happen.
While I wrote the poem some years ago, at the time, I could also sense changes coming, unable to pinpoint them. It took longer for the storm to hit, and my life to be altered beyond anything I imagined, but like Mary in that garden, I knew something was coming.
Now, six or seven years later, I approach Maundy Thursday with the renewed sense of something coming. It’s still far off, I think, but I can feel it, like a summer storm you can feel even when the sun is brilliant and there’s not a cloud to be seen except that dim dark line at the far horizon. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad coming, but change in any way is unsettling and shakes you up.
I’m trying to remember my Gethsemane Girl, hiding in the bushes and not knowing the end of the story, and trying to tell her, Be strong, it changes everything beyond what you ever imagined possible.