“Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus…” Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come…'” (John 12:20-21, 23)
“Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” “I fear the Greeks, even those bearing gifts.” (Virgil, The Aeneid)
They bore no gifts for you, just asked to see you, Jesus.
Did you see them? John didn’t say. Instead, he quotes you
(at some length) reflecting on the seeds that die and live,
on lives that end to save themselves, on followers
in service, honor rising from humility.
Somehow you saw in their plain inquiry
the gathering malevolence that would
first strike you down, then lift you up,
then bear you breathless to the stony grave.
Stern gift, this glimpse into the future’s agony.
They could not know that they had given you
the indicator of the time.
They could not know that you had made the choice
to give the world yourself, and giving,
draw them, one and all, into the arms of God.
A poem/prayer based on John 12:20-33, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Fifth Sunday in Lent.
The Apostle Saint Philip by El Greco (ca. 1610-1614) – qAERMjY3wbk87w at Google Cultural Institute, zoom level maximum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29844123. I could not resist using Doménikos Theotokópoulos’ portrait, as his Spanish nickname El Greco means “The Greek.”
2 thoughts on “Gift of the Greeks”
Extraordinarily beautiful poem on a passage I often find so hard to untangle.
Thank you! I don’t think I’ve actually untangled the text itself – I doubt Philip, Jesus, or John gave a single thought to the quote from Virgil – but it gave me a path to follow.