Lenten Sonnet

Lent is upon me again, and, as has so often been the case in past years, I do not feel ready for its arrival. Lent is a season of penitence, of humility, of reorienting the heart to God. At the same time, it is set in late winter, when darkness and cold still linger. Here in CO, the brevity of the day, and the chill on the air feels particularly cutting and harsh. It is also a spiritual darkness, the early morning hours before dawn. Lent looks toward Holy Week, remembering Jesus going up to Jerusalem toward his fate on the cross. The hope of resurrection is there, yes. Unlike Jesus' disciples, we know what comes next. And yet there is still a lingering dread, knowing that before resurrection comes the cross, and the grave. The descent into the dark.

And yet without this, the resurrection rings hollow. Without the great passion, the act of God's giving of Himself entirely, radically reversing the dying heart of the universe, the resurrection is suspended in a vacuum. The cross is the way to rebirth, and so, with millions of others around the world, I hold the hand of my savior and descend into the dark of Lent, with the hope of Easter firmly in my eyes.

Last August I took a sonnet-writing class with the inimitable Malcolm Guite, a master sonneteer. Together as a class, we attempted to construct our own sonnet, which began with the line, "Step by Step Descend Into the Dark". Sadly, the class ended before we could get a complete draft. However, I have taken the bones of that venture and attempted to flesh them out, in my own variation upon that sonnet. I hope it brings purpose to your Lenten journey today.



Step by step descend into the dark,

Enter the void until all you can see

Conceived within you is the cursed mark

Of Lazarus, and barren Calvary.

Descend into the dark but do not fear,

For even though the stone now bars the way,

There is another who has languished here,

His passion incarnated into clay.

Into the dark a charged and fertile beat

Is emanating from the ritual stains.

The blood that He has borne inside this crypt

Is ebbing through your arteries and veins.

There in the dark you find your spirit tomb

He has transfigured into sacred womb.


-  J.C.

Ash Wednesday, 2015

Poetry, WritingJoel Clarkson