Good Friday April 23, 2011Posted by Matt in Holy Week.
Tags: Good Friday, Gospel of John, Passion, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
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I’m a little late with this post, but I wanted to continue on the track I’ve laid this week in speaking of our first Holy Week observance with St. Timothy’s, and it could not be complete without Good Friday.
As I mentioned in my last post, on Maundy Thursday the altar was stripped bare and the cross covered by a black veil, signifying the arrest of Jesus by the Empire. Good Friday then is the day of his crucifixion, the day on which Jesus dies and is buried. Our priest, Patrick, has said on more than one occasion that we should live our lives in a guilt-free way where we feel forgiven and that services conducted by him will always reflect that sentiment. The only exception to that rule is Good Friday, this is truly a black day of penitence.
On that evening walked into the nave where the silence was so thick you could almost cut it in the air, found a seat and knelt down for the prayer to open the service. The readings fit with the somber atmosphere of the night, being taken from Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22:1-11, and Hebrews 10:16-25, but it was the Gospel reading for the night that set the sobering tone and truly brought the experience home that evening. Together the congregation read through John’s account of the Passion, with Patrick acting as a narrator, other individual parishioners taking on the parts of Jesus, Peter, and Pilate, and the entire congregation standing in for the people calling for his death. It’s a difficult and sobering thing to actually play the part of those calling out, “Crucify him!,” and it was made even more so when we stood together at the verse about handing him over to be crucified.
Following the reading Patrick stood and talked for a few minutes and I found his take to be quite enlightening and profound. He brought it back home in his sermon, saying that in their opposition to Jesus and his attempt to revolutionize their religion, they built the foundation upon which he would eventually be put to death. As Patrick put it, they started out aghast at what Jesus was saying and began telling everyone, “This guy sucks!” Well, if you say something enough times it will grab a foothold and soon more people began saying it as well. Before you know it, things begin spiraling faster and faster and they’ve moved beyond attempts to discredit and insult and are ready to have him killed. It’s something to remember when we, in our overly confrontational society, are so quick to run down or seek to discredit those with whom we presume to disagree. I know that I’ve been guilty of that in the past just as I’m sure most others are as well.
We ended with more litany and prayer, but no Communion because, as Patrick says, we are remembering a day when God was no longer available. It’s a terrible yet somehow strangely beautiful sentiment.