Veronica and the Veil

Veronica and the Veil - Christ on the Road to Calvary
By Michelle Hindman

Such a swollen face. You’ll find the instinct
is simply to abstain, for fear
you might hurt, more than help, every contact confrontation
to such seeping wounds, and there are more than can be seen.
It is easier, to let the blood drop, 
just a drip  into thirsty sand, 
which swallows soundlessly such sorrow - 
And what can you do to make it stop? 
For bandages are needed, not the blotting of a maid.
And yet I reached
out, my fingers grazing his blackened cheek, 
the blood blazing trails down his dusty face.
My veil was so thin, so light, that clutching it, 
I felt the weight of my weightless try to cease
the smallest drop of sweat. 
The offering was mostly my own shaking palms.
But there he was, the suffering stark,
The rawness of his red, beaten brow, the salt dripping
into his me-seeing eyes,
And I stretched out - not so much to stop his pain, 
for this too-gauzed, too-small kerchief couldn’t -
Never could-
But to share it - to say “I too feel kicked, cursed, left
Without a one to stroke the blood-caked hair back
from my desert-dry eyes, squinting tearless into death.”
So I touched his face to try, 
despite the fact that I had helped to build the world that gave his blows, 
that bulged his brow beneath a crown of cuts
I touched his face, and he without a wince, allowed my veil
my love, in all its thinness to be blessed
by his labored breath. He staggered on.
And when I reached to wipe my tears with that same small square, 
I found his image had remained, 
His face imprinted in the place where I had reached
Without a hope, 
His love, his sorrows stamped
upon my sheer, yet Christ-pressed, lovely life. 

Description and process: 

I’ve always been captivated by the idea of Veronica and the Veil in the Stations of the Cross, even though it’s an extra-Biblical tradition. What I’ve always found most compelling besides the miraculous transference of Christ’s image to Veronica’s veil, is the action of empathy that it demonstrates. Although Simon of Cyrene had the muscle to bear Christ’s cross, Veronica only had her compassion and this seemingly futile act. Since so many in my community are hurting, especially because of mental health, I found thinking about reaching out with a thin, gauzy veil as an excellent symbol for how useless it can feel to try to help sometimes, without any clear certainty of what good your actions might do. In addition, the resistance and pain we feel about Christ’s suffering often reflects our unwillingness to engage with the reality of other’s suffering, and with the fact that our own sin often causes suffering, both Christ’s and the oppressed. Veronica couldn’t stop the execution, but her desire to reach out to Christ showed faith and compassion, and I believe that God is always in our attempts to share the suffering of others through love. Only Christ can take our thin efforts and make them places where his image is, but we must use that evidence of his appearance to keep us willing to press forward. Thanks for allowing me to share this poem.