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Friday, March 29, 2013

Passive voice on Passion Week

Almost every poet or poetry student who has sent me poems to critique has heard me say, “Active verbs work better than passive.” Since I say that a lot, you might have heard me say the same somewhere on this blog.

Poets aren’t the only ones making this common mistake though. Writers in every genre often mar their manuscripts with blah, do-nothing verbs and see-nothing pronouns in such super-blah combinations as “There is” or “It was.”

With so few lines in poetry, such colorless phrases do not help much. However, today, on Good Friday, I’m suddenly seeing the perfection of passive voice: The Passion of Christ restored us, spiritually, to God, but the action – the activity, the active verb choices all belonged to Jesus.

by Mary Harwell Sayler

It was finished.
There was nothing left to do
but take down Jesus' body
and hide it quickly
from mind, from view.

The terror of the tomb
closed the matter,
once for all,
wrapping up sin
for its descent
into down-falling darkness
where never light had been.

Even from the Upper Room
no one had known our own
souls would be exhumed.

But Christ arose.

And with Him angels rolled
away the tombstone,
shroud, and doubt –
releasing all
who wanted out.

© 2013, Mary Harwell Sayler, all rights reserved. The Disciple magazine accepted the original version of “Resurrection” in 1983 with the above revision included in church newsletters and a now-out-of-print chapbook, Saints Alive, Now & Then.


  1. In one sense, we were the ones released from the tomb.

  2. Yes! And again, Christ was the active voice in this choice :)

  3. Thank you for the touching poem about Good Friday!

  4. Thanks for taking time to tell me the poem meant something to you. Have a most blessed Easter.