Holy Thursday,
The Stripping

The Celebrant returns to strip the Altar and 
chancel of all ornamentation, recalling the 
stripping of our Lord’s body at the crucifixion.


The stripping proceeds without haste. 
In this choreography 
of total eviction 
a bow accompanies each removal 
of chalices and fair linen, 
candelabra, the historic 
the gilded Gospel.

The priest 
has handed his scarlet robe 
to the verger. 
In the emptied chancel 
he pours oil and water 
on the undressed altar, 
washes naked wood 
like a body, 
folds himself in shadow.

Lots are cast. 
Our hearts are wax. 
Eloi, Eloi, save us 
from the power of the dog. 
We kneel forsaken 
until there is nothing for us 
but to stagger, speechless, 
into the voided 
and vigilant night.