Sede Vacante combines stories from the Greek myths with a corresponding mythical Fate to illustrate the Fall of man and his inability to solve his fallen state alone. With the corruption of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, the Greek world turns its weary eyes to Olympus, only to find the thrones abandoned by gods who cannot save. The poem ends on a hopeful note, as the ‘myth made fact’, Jesus Christ, is foreshadowed through the longing for a hero who can fulfill the need for redemption, metaphorically represented in the empty seat. Matthew 25:31 tells us that “He will sit on His glorious throne” as King. The title, “Sede Vacante,” is a Latin phrase meaning ‘empty seat.’ (This is used most often in reference to the priestly position of the Papacy.) Through Jesus, our High Priest, we “approach the throne of grace with confidence.” (Hebrews 4:16) Christ both fills, and is literally, the ‘mercy seat’, the no-longer-empty throne. (Romans 3)

The Ancient Greeks and Romans wrote poetry in the Sapphic meter. Named for the Greek poet Sappho, this style requires a particular four-line stanza pattern of trochees and dactyls, with English versions also using certain stressed syllables to sustain the meter.  Later revived by the Medievals, with the addition of an ABAB rhyme scheme, and adopted by poets such as Swinburne and Hardy,  the Sapphic style remains one of the longest enduring forms of Classical poetry.

Sede Vacante
Matthew 25:31

Snipping life-thread Atropos ends the story,
Mighty wings of Icarus scissors clipped
Empty seem myth’s memento mori, for thee
The truth told tripped

Leaning, mirrored, Narcissus his own glory
Pooled, puddled — reflected — the weight of man
Keeping measured, Lachesis fathoms, for he
Pride-plunged pain began

Spinning, self-same Arachne weaving warped
Looming lovely, Athena, Clotho knowing
Wheeling, webbing humankind downward dropped
Arete going

Stolen Beauty Troy’s Helen queenly cometh
Spoilt youth, proud prince of darkness dreaming dimly
Golden apple forbidden biting, stomachs
Conquering kingdoms

All thrones upon Olympus empty sitting
godless, storied deity barren, bounden
Silent, bereft Olympus judgment pending-
Deserted mountain

Where is justice, Astraea, star-ward fleeing?,
Well-heeled great god, Achilles’s likeness, arose
This Son of God — immortal — Man’s Son, reigning
Dominion transposed

Citation Information
Karise Gililland, “Sede Vacante,” An Unexpected Journal: The Ancients 4, no. 3. (Fall 2021), 73-78.
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