Friday, April 14, 2006

THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN: The Passion of Jesus of Nazareth

For some the prospect of an execution is an unexpected bonus
to their Passover holiday.
But among those near are many who love Jesus, including a
number of women who have follow him since he
preached in Capernaeum.

For twelve years my life blood
flowed out of me; rag after rag
soaked through, my life spent washing and bleeding, so weak I could hardly breathe. When I heard his name
I only had to touch his skirt
for his power to heal me and stop the flow.

I would follow him to the ends of the earth
I would give my life blood over again
to spare him this pain.
I push myself to the front
and get to the edge of the road.

There he labors, sweat
pours from him as he struggles
to pull along the cross that will kill him.
Before they can stop me I break through
the cordon of soldiers. I am quick.
I wipe the sweat from his face with my cloth.
The print of his face soaks into my cloth
and See! The print of his face is still on it.
and I will never wash it.

* * *

The beatings he had received between interrogations had so weakened Jesus that he could scarcely move with the weight of the cross. Seeing this, an officer turned to a healthy-looking fellow and commanded him to carry Jesus’ cross.

Simon of Cyrene:
Why should I?
What’s this to do with me?
I’ve done my day’s work.
My hands are sore.
I want my tea. Why me?
It’s nothing to do with me.

And the officer shoved the butt of his lance in the small of his back and said

Here’s why

Simon of Cyrene:
Then I looked at the poor sod, about to die,
and he looked at me,
and I thought ‘Why not me?
He’s in his own country
but he’s even more a stranger here than me.’
Hard to see him like that and not want to help him,
Any rate, with the lance in my back
I got on with it.

The name of the man was Simon, a quest-worker from Cyrene.
Whit his help they arrived at Golgotha.
Two others, guilty of theft, have already been nailed onto crosses.
The earth is covered in blood from the act.
The air is full of the men’s screams.

* * *

This is the tenth crucifixion I’ve been to.
I can usually spot the ones who will last.
Some of them do their best not to cry when they’re nailed.
But they all do.

Woman 1:
How long until it’s over?

Woman 2:
Sometimes it’s days.

Now it is Jesus’ turn.
One soldier hold down his shoulder,
Another his feet and rope them firm

One for Mummy
who feeds you with honey.

while a third drives a nail though the root of each hand
into the wood of the cross

One for Daddy,
you’re his little laddie.

And a third nail is forced through the bones
of Jesus’ crossed feet.

And one for the little Birdie.

In accordance with the lex de bonis damnatorum the clothes of the crucified men were distributed among the soldiers on duty. They could not decide who should get Jesus’ cloak so they threw dice for it.

Don’t cut it, don’t tear it.
There’s life in it yet.
A pity to spoil a nice piece of cloth.

The man who won the cloak was pleased; though he would probably sell it.

The priests were glad to see Jesus nailed.

From the Passion of Jesus of Nazareth
Libertto by Elizabeth Cook
Music by Francis Grier