Entering the Silence of Good Friday
Good Friday worship should reveal the face of God in Christ crucified.
Allow our desires for our particular taste in beauty to be placed in the scales with the scandal of the crucified and give more time to utterly silent prayer.
Indeed in dying cross my life that day
By chance, he on his road and I on mine?"
Only a question can lead us into Good Friday. Only a question like that one from Edwin Muir's poem, "The Killing", opens our hearts, minds, feeling, memories and desires to the form worship takes at three o'clock on Good Friday.
And the value of a question is this: every book in the New Testament confronts us with the question: "Who do you say that I am?" And over and over again when anyone in conversation with our Lord declares who he is, they are then made to think again and accept their answer was too small for the whole wonder of who he is.
This is especially true when it comes to knowing, loving and following a crucified Christ. I always felt that one of the most revealing moments in Franco Zeffirelli's film Jesus of Nazareth was this (it is an invention of Zeffirelli): as the camera pulled away from Jesus crucified, there was what at first sounded like a voiceover.
But then we are shown Nicodemus, played by Lawrence Olivier, articulating the suffering servant song from the prophet Isaiah that we receive on Good Friday: "He had no form or majesty that we should look at him... despised and rejected surely he has borne our infirmities... he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors."
But these words were spoken by Nicodemus watching from a distance, not with the tone of: "So this is what Isaiah meant", but the searching tone of "So could this be what Isaiah meant?"
So we are given a form of worship on Good Friday afternoon that means we walk humbly before this Lord willing to become less foolish about the reconciling deed of God in his son, Our Lord. The form has changed over the centuries; I remember black vestments, only the priest receiving Communion, kneeling at the altar rails to kiss a small cross. And the only constant for us on Good Friday has been no Mass; we do not "Do this in memory of me."
So do nothing. All the signs of action are missing: no song as we gather (it as if we do not gather, we are just there). For many years I have made sure the celebrant and all those assisting take their places well before three-o'clock: no procession at all. After a silent prostration, a prayer, but no: "Let us pray." It is as if we do nothing.
For the proclamation of the Passion no actions such as carrying candles or incense. The homily is demanded; silence may suffice. For the universal prayer people may stand or kneel as if they are not there. The veneration of the cross can either be a coming forward each one, or no action but only silence. We come alone, personally, in hidden silence.
Communion is utterly simple: no chant is provided, to accompany our deliberately coming forward in procession, in community. A song may be sung or there may be silence (it is as if we do not come, we only receive where we are, as we are, personally meeting our Saviour). And at the end: a prayer, but no blessing, no dismissal; we do not go.
For several years I have done something else on Good Friday at noon: lead the Stations of the Cross, but with no vestments, no assistants and no song.
At each station just the title and the acclamation: "We adore you, O Christ and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world." A reading from St John's Gospel and from the Letter to the Hebrews. St John, because his Gospel can be summed up in these words: Jesus crucified is Jesus glorified. And the Letter to the Hebrews because it proclaims: on the first Good Friday, the worship in the Jerusalem Temple was at its most glorious in terms of the building, music, vessels, robes and ritual.
But the worship of God was accomplished on the road to Calvary and on Golgotha: no fine robes, only a garment diced for; no servers, only a Simon, two thieves and soldiers; no song, only the keening of some women.
In the end our worship on Good Friday has to stand up to this scrutiny: does all we sing, the vestments, the ritual, reveal the face of God in Christ crucified, or does, yes, the very beauty allow us to run away from the scandal of the cross?
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
1 Corinthians 2:2:
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice: "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?"
To do this week
Make the sign of the cross and in silence, refusing to be deluded by any beauty, ponder the face of the Lord.
Allow our desires for our particular taste in beauty to be placed in the scales with the scandal of the crucified and give more time to utterly silent prayer where we do not even use forms of prayer to distract us from the truth of the cross.
Allow our priorities to be judged by these words form Edwin Muir's poem:
But the hardened old
and the hard-hearted young, although at odds
from the first morning, cursed him with one curse,
having prayer for a Rabbi or an armed Messiah
and found the Son of God. What use to them
was a God or a Son of God? Of what avail
for purposes such as theirs
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- The Power of the Resurrection in our Lives: Christ Is Risen; Indeed, He Is Risen!
- What a Day! What a Way, the Easter Way, Alleluia!
- The Surprise of Easter
- Easter Vigil Homily of Pope Francis: Let the Risen Jesus Enter Your Life
- HOLY SATURDAY: The Whole Earth Keeps Silence
- The Resurrecting Power of Mercy
- On the Friday We Call Good, the Whole World Stands Still
- Good Friday Reflection on the Logic of the Cross
- Reflection: Let us Apply the Splint of the Cross to our Fractured Freedom
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
F. K. Bartels - Catholic Online, 4/6/2013
There is great cause for belief in the Resurrection. One of the most wonderful tenets of Catholicism and the true Christian religion the Church transmits, is that the Resurrection is a historical ...Continue Reading
Deacon Keith Fournier - Catholic Online, 4/1/2013
Have you have heard the old adage, used often in a disparaging way, He´s so heavenly he is no earthly good. I suggest again that it misses the mark completely. We are Easter people. We are called to ...Continue Reading
Fr. Randy Sly - Catholic Online, 3/31/2013
To make sure that all mankind knows that it is not over but actually just beginning, God has an Easter bombshell. While we may have been able to anticipate the wondrous joy of a day of resurrection, ...Continue Reading
Pope Francis - Catholic Online, 3/31/2013
Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »