Good Friday dawns with the feeling of stark contrast in the air. This is not, and never is, a normal day. The Cathedral has bare altars, and only today and tomorrow are there no Eucharists set to be held, quite different to every other day of the year.
A cross is set up, and from early on, all is concentrated on the Three Hours that lie ahead from 12 noon to 3pm, the last three hours that Jesus hung dying.
We wear our weekday black cassocks and ponder the mystery that is before us, while, as John F Deane put it, ‘centuries of trust hung as dust in the folds of our surplices.’
With such weight of years of dwelling on the Cross there may be, but I like too his description of the lightness of the holding of trust, and that it settles on us as day by day as we say our prayers and read the psalms, but all comes back to this day and Christ’s self-giving love.
There will be many prayers said this day, as well as the voiceless pleading for the distress of the millions who live in danger or in peril of starvation, or who watch while their children are taken by disease or violence.
Whilst today the attention of Christians is on Calvary and the world-transforming effects of Christ’s death, as we believe them to be, we remember too the many others who today across the Holy Land and within the City of Jerusalem are at prayer in their own way and according to their own faith.
John F Deane (once again) expresses for me how concern and individual pleading somehow surround the problems and issues of our day, that we are holding the pain and sorrow of the world with our own inadequacies and sin. The example he takes is of the Jewish people at prayer at their holy place just metres from where Muslims and Christians are worshipping. He writes:
“Between the crevices of the Western Wall, paper slips
hold prayers that make a mortar of human pleading.”
Meanwhile in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre Christians from all over the world will visit the site of the Cross, light candles and pray in quiet devotion to God. We, in our own way, will be with them.
(The quotations are from Manhandling the Deity by John F Deane pages 39 and 78)