Catherine de Vinck’s “A Passion Play” for Good Friday

Here is a passage from Catherine de Vinck’s A Passion Play: A Drama for Several Voices (Allendale, NJ: Alleluia Press, 1975) that I thought would be especially enriching for our celebration of Good Friday. This monologue represents Jesus’ encounter with the women of Jerusalem on his way to crucifixion:

Women of Jerusalem
do not weep over me:
but if tears must fall, let them flow
over yourselves, over your children.
And if you must wail, let your voices
rise beyond this hour and break a passage
through the hard stone of time.
I mourn with you, my sisters:
hate fans the fire under the cauldron
where you simmer. Why, queens of sorrow
does your hair blaze under flaming crowns?
From age to age
why is guilt pressed upon your souls?
Crush the myrrh, prepare the linen
store the ointment for your distant children.
The desert, the rock-pile, the lime-pit
this is where you keep house, my sisters!
With you I mourn, with you I am sent
by cattle-car to sealed rooms
deep into a smoky darkness.
My sisters, in my dying I sing Kaddish with you.
I am not a God of nowhere, but Myriam’s son;
my roots stand firm in your soil, Israel!
Who is killing me? A few Romans
A handful of Jews? Here and now, yes:
but my death grows elsewhere, hangs
in a thousand evil trees. The hands
that kill hold the club, aim the gun,
drop the bomb; the eyes that hunt me
glow in dark forests of time; I die
in all places of terror, at all hours
— Rome, Constantinople, Auschwitz
Hiroshima, Baby-Yar, Mylai –
names are tattooed on my flesh
numbers are carved on my wrists
while the world writes its history
with the iron alphabet of war.
Weep, daughters of Jerusalem: I weep with you
for if they slash the green wood
what shall they do to dry branches?

One comment

  1. This exerpt is gorgeous and enhanced my understanding of the 8th station. My favorite images?
    “hate fans the fire under the cauldron
    where you simmer.”

    “names are tattooed on my flesh
    numbers are carved on my wrists
    while the world writes its history
    with the iron alphabet of war.”

    Thank you, Michael.

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