Saturday, April 15, 2017

To Be Continued: Good Friday of the Easter Triduum

Good Friday has felt sad, dry, and somewhat empty.  I went to Stations of the Cross at noon.  The Baptismal font near the entry of the worship space has been drained of all holy water.  A wooden sculpture of Christ with a prominent crown of thorns is front and center. 

A number of people I recognized were there.  Several of us walked around the outside of the church where there is a sculpture about a foot tall for each one of the Stations.  Others sat in the chairs and pews to follow along in the booklet which includes Scripture readings, hymns, reflections from the viewpoint of a fictitious eyewitness, and short prayers to be read aloud together.  Tears welled up in my eyes, though I have done this particular version of Stations of the Cross many times before.
I cannot fathom willingly, lovingly, and without complaint undergoing such tremendous suffering in mind, body, and spirit.  When I consider how resistant I am to giving up even small comforts, the sacrifices Christ made for us knowing our sinfulness and every one of our future indiscretions are far beyond anything I can comprehend. 

Part of me wants to rescue Jesus from the horrible scene, to shout at these people that they are torturing an innocent man.  Another part of me knows that I am among those responsible for the lacerations from the scourge on His back, the thorns piercing his head, the nails hammered into his wrists and ankles, the buffets and spit on His face. 

I wanted to stay at church between 12 until 3pm, when Christ is said to have been hanging on the Cross and died.  After re-walking the Stations on my own so I could get a close look at each sculpture, I spent some time in the Chapel.  Later, I went out to the Grotto and sat on one of the benches facing the Pietà

Friday Flashbacks

Being out by the grotto reminded me of one year when our beloved brother in Christ John, his mom, and I were among those who gathered to pray Stations of the Cross at St. Michael’s at noon one Good Friday.  Afterward, John and I went out to the grotto.  The sun was shining and it was relatively warm.  We prayed some more and talked.  It turned out to be a special time of reflection on Christ’s sacrifice and His work in our own lives.

Another year, the Director of Liturgy asked me if I would carry the Cross into the sanctuary for the Veneration on Good Friday with John and Henry, the two seminarians from St. Michael’s at that time.  I was honored to be asked and happy to comply as I’ve always felt Kevin and I have had a special role in John’s vocation discernment.  Fortunately, the wooden cross used is not terribly heavy, something that I was concerned about when first asked to help.

As part of middle school religious education on March 27,
group leaders and students wrote examples of suffering
on pieces of paper and nailed each one to the cross,
then we wrote where and in whom we see God
on strips of white cloth that was then
draped over the cross to symbolize
 the Resurrection, the 14th Station of the Cross.
Pick up your cross and follow me.  

Sometimes, when I have fallen down with my cross, I haven’t gotten right back up.  I have lamented the weight of the cross, concentrated on my own aches and pains, pointed out the number of splinters I’ve gotten, lamented that the sun was in my eyes, I hadn’t eaten my Wheaties and was seriously considering giving up. 

Honestly, there have been times in my life when I have been in enough pain physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually that I just want the suffering to be over as soon as possible. I’ve begged God for an end to the anguish, but ultimately, I have asked that if I must endure it that it would be used, in conjunction with Christ’s Passion, for the salvation of souls in time and eternity. 

I realize anything I have gone through is minuscule in comparison to what Christ willingly, knowingly, acceptingly suffered.  Even so, in the midst of extreme hurt, I have been completely overwhelmed.  I’ve been unable to feel God’s presence, though, I know He has never left me.  I can understand feeling utterly abandoned.  I’ve asked God where He was in some situations and circumstances.  And even when I don’t sense a response, I know (at least intellectually) that He hasn’t given up on me.      

Oftentimes lately, the following lyrics have come to mind: “Was there purpose for the pain? Did I cry these tears in vein?” The next part of the song I initially misheard as "I have been told" instead of "I have this hope."  The lyrics make more sense now.

"I have this hope in the depth of my soul.  In the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go.” -song lyrics from "I Have This Hope" by Tenth Avenue North

I spent some time in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel this afternoon, but it felt strangely empty in there.  The tabernacle is bare.  The doors of it flung open with nothing inside.  The red candle that is lit in the presence of the Eucharist had been removed from its golden holder.  Only a few women came to sit and pray before the void.  How lonely and sorrowful it would be if we didn’t have Christ in the Eucharist, in each one of us.  Every person would resemble a hollow tabernacle, worthless without the precious Body and Spirit of Christ inside.

The Good Friday portion of the Easter Triduum began with two of our cantors belting out "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  I closed my eyes and soaked in the beauty of the moment.  Click the link below and close your eyes as you listen. 

Like on Holy Thursday, we were blessed to have a full choir and a complete string section this evening. Each row was given the opportunity to come and venerate the Cross.  Some couples held hands as they approached.  Families gathered around, touching each other as well as the Cross while praying. 

Deacon David gave the homily.  He asked us to consider a time in our lives when we had done everything we were supposed to do, and things had not gone the way we wanted them to or thought they should.  Not only had it not gone the way we'd hoped, but the worst possible outcome transpired.  He invited us to recall if we had told others about the injustice we had suffered. 

Typically, we tend to speak out against unfairness, especially when it involves us.  I thought of an incident when I’d been wrongly accused without much searching.  I remember being really frustrated, angry, and determined to prove my innocence, no matter what that took. 

Christ was attacked verbally and physically.  None of these insults or accusations were deserved, yet much of the time, He kept His mouth shut. 

After we prayed the Lord's Prayer and received the Eucharist, which was left over from what was consecrated on Holy Thursday, we once again left the church in silence.
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