The Story

“Then the chief priests and elders of the people gathered together in the courtyard of the high priest Caiaphas, and they planned to arrest Jesus through deceit and kill him. … and a woman came to [Jesus] having an alabaster jar of expensive perfume, and she poured it on his head while he was eating. When the disciples saw it, they were displeased…”

The Gospel of Matthew, 26:3-8, The New Testament: A New Translation for Latter-day Saints, by Thomas A. Wayment

The threat had always been there, poised in the stone’s grain structure. The Elder gazed into the stone with troubled eyes, forced to accept the profile of a man lurking with a dagger. Stalking Jesus, he held the blade in his right hand, at waist-level, pointing up. The metal tip wanted only a ribcage.

Hoping for a different vision, the Elder turned his eyes toward the stone’s darkest face—the one with the least features. Still, his gaze returned to the man with the dagger. Until suddenly…

a woman appeared in the stone, slumping her head dramatically to the left. She held a jar depleted of its spiced contents. Was she slumping away from rebuke? Was she writhing in agony? Pleasure? The darkness behind her felt angry. But was the anger directed at her or at Jesus? Regardless, she received the brunt of it.

“Judas, dude, it’s been a long day. And tomorrow’s gonna be even worse. We’ve got some good wine, some fine ointment, and a chick who digs us. What’s. Your. Problem?”

Jesus speaking in Mark 14:6, Fellow’s Translation of the Holy Bible

The vision changed. Out of the woman’s bosom erupted an aging man’s visage. First a pair of bushy frosted eyebrows, then the dark wells of conspiring eyes, then pale cheekbones, mustache, and beard. In truth, his face held little hate. Stern? Sure, but not outright hateful. The Elder beheld Caiaphas within the stone: the high priest—a master of reading rooms, gauging winds, and doggedly guarding his status quo.

The high priest regarded Jesus as a victim of his own success. The Nazarene was living out the all-too-familiar tale of a rural prophet wrangled into becoming an urban church’s president. Followers are so eager to turn their beloveds into martyrs. Caiaphas rued how seriously people took Jesus. In fact, that was the crisis every religious leader faced. They found themselves besieged by people who took everything they said far too seriously.

As Caiaphas and the Elder stared at each other through the stone, the latter chuckled and mused: “Poor Jesus. The man can’t retell a joke he heard at the well without spawning a new cult.” Caiaphas did not chuckle at this joke.

O Lord, we are feathers of the dove,
stretched along its wings in space,
moving timeward to a certain end.

May we, we happy precious we,
with every flap of the wings,
prove the worth of all persons!

A Fellow’s Psalm

Without him realizing it, Elder’s eyes drifted away from the stone and onto a barren stretch of countertop. He went “off-axis” as astronomers call it. When he did realize he had fallen into dumb daydreaming, the Elder wrenched his gaze back onto the stone. In that moment, he saw neither mistress nor high priest. In their place, taking up the entirety of the stone’s surface, was a dove—the very dove of which the gospel writers testified.

The dove sat plump and calm, its feathers a volcanic gray. Its head curled at the neck, reposed in a self-cuddle as if sleeping. Two fledglings, much lighter in shade, nestled against its belly. The Elder wondered: are they Ignorance and Want?

Growing impatient with the napping bird, the young seer wrenched control of the stone’s glowing imagery. The fat gray dove felt itself thrown into the sky by an angry god. Turning, she struck her beak downward at the only things she could control. Piercing, thrashing, and tearing apart her young, she devoured them.

Poet’s Notes

The above piece was sparked by Lenten meditation, which I have been doing with the Community of Christ in the weeks preceding Easter. This is the fourth in a series of posts:

  1. If Jesus Took Satan’s Offer
  2. A Trinity Within the Stone
  3. Spectacles in Glass and Stone

My thanks to those who have thoughtfully engaged with this series. Please leave your reactions to the piece, along with any thoughts you have about Lent and its purpose, in the comments section below. Thank you.