Standing before the Cross

Good Friday

 Deacon Richard Haber  March 30, 2018

The liturgy of the Triduum which began last night continues today and will culminate on Easter with the beautiful Easter Vigil (which I encourage all of you to attend).  The Triduum is a symphony in three parts, each part understandable in the light of the other two parts. Today, the second part, is Good Friday.

Last night we remembered that final Passover dinner Jesus “longed” to celebrate with his disciples, with us.  We remembered, even if we could not fully understand it, that somehow, he was leaving us his body and blood so that he would be part of us, God-with-us, until the end of time.

“This is the Body that will be given up for you; this is the chalice of the new covenant in my Blood says the Lord; do this, whenever you receive it in memory of me.” (1 Cor 11:24-25) .  But this is not an abstract command. As we saw last night, in that wonderful image Fr. Lloyd gave us of God in an apron, celebrating the Eucharist must be translated into love. Love for the poor, the oppressed, those in pain, those addicted, thus persecuted, those minorities different from us. Jesus washed their feet and told us to do the same.  We can only do this with Jesus and that is the meaning of the water and blood that poured out after the soldier pierced his side with his spear. The water of our baptism and the nourishment of the Eucharist gives us the courage and the strength to imitate our God in an apron.

Today we stand before the cross and words do fail us. WE make the sign of the cross every day and yet it remains mysterious.  How can we possibly comprehend its meaning? How can we express in words what it means for us? We have so many questions? Why did it have to end this way? Why did Jesus have to suffer so much? Last Sunday, Robert reminded us that we cannot understand the cross through words but only with the heart. The language of the heart is poetry where words carry an almost infinite amount of meaning and music.  The cross is a stark symbol, which we have trouble understanding unless we place it in the context of the whole Triduum, the whole symphony.  The mournful slow rhythm of this Second part of the symphony gives us pause. We need to spend some time and allow this second movement to speak to our hearts. Incredible as it sounds, incomprehensible as it seems, the cross is not a symbol of death, of the end, but rather a symbol hope, a symbol of love and of promise.

This is expressed in a poem entitled “I am the Great Sun” by an English poet, Charles Causley who died in 2003. He was inspired to write this poem when he encountered a 17th century crucifix hanging in a Normandy church. Let us allow this poem to speak to our hearts as we contemplate the cross.

I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
I am your husband, but you turn away.
I am the captive, but you do not free me,
I am the captain but you will not obey.
I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay.
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.
I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,
I am your lover whom you will betray.
I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,
I am the holy dove whom you will slay.
I am your life, but if you will not name me,
Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.

Let us now spend a few moments contemplating the cross as we listen to the plaintive song of a street person who understands more  than most of us the mystery of the cross:

Jesus blood never failed me.