William Dyce, Man of Sorrows (1860), National Galleries Scotland
Remember child, that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
Feeling the crustiness of the ashes on my forehead
dried and tightening my skin
cracking with the wrinkles on my brow
I am minded of dust and ageing and death,
of creaking joints, of trembling hands,
of furrows ploughed, seeds sown and grown,
and withering mortality.
And you sit there, a young man still, in your prime.
hands clasped loosely on your lap.
What have they done, those hands?
Who have they held, loved, supported?
You’ve still so much to do with them,
so much to heal, to care, to bless, to break, to give.
You look at them, relax them and close your eyes in prayer.
The wind dies down and the only sound is your heartbeat, your breathing.
The cold stone is unforgiving beneath you, hard and unyielding
but you pray about forgiveness, about repentance and renewal.
A voice says you could turn that stone into bread if you want.
You think of stone and you think of bread.
One hard and the other soft.
Bread to feed the hungry,
to feed thousands one day in the hills.
Stone and bread.
This is so hard.
Pray that it may not be so.