It's Good Friday: the most sombre day of the Christian year, and yet one on which our Christian hope is founded. I reflected on this in the Cathedral yesterday, looking at the figure of Christ in Glory which sits above the distorted, suffering figure of the crucified Christ. We cannot have the glory without the suffering. It's worth observing that in this tapestry, the crucified Christ is at human eye-level; we need to raise our eyes to see the bigger picture of Christ the King.
Each year, we set aside the three hours during which Jesus was on the cross - noon until 3pm - as an especially holy time. The Three Hours' Service takes us through the events as recounted in St John's Gospel (18.1-19.42), set alongside hymns, readings from other sources, collects, and a great deal of silence for meditation and prayer. Not everyone is able to manage the whole of the service, so we invite people to come for as long as possible. Come and join us if you are able!
One of the readings we'll use is this poem I wrote a few years ago. It follows the story of the Passion through our various senses.
Sensing the Passion
Poignant the fragrance of love’s home:
Not putrid Lazarus, death-entombed,
Nor stove-aroma rich from one who served,
But Mary’s precious pungent perfume poured.
Feet washed, death death consumed.
Bitter the savour: memory’s feast,
Sour traitor’s morsel, couching sin;
Spurious loyalty in pride-chewed vow;
Wilderness death by freedom-tasting slave;
Bread, flesh; wine, blood; slave, king.
Strident the clamour: boot-black night,
Jeer-jangling mob: ‘Our will!’ Fear chill
Trampling through spirit-willing sleep, flesh weak;
Sword-whistle wound heard hard upon the ear;
Still, hear: ‘I Am. I will.’
Vivid the image: furnace fire
As cock-crow sears on stricken sight
Threefold, tear-tainted snap of stark remorse.
Exposed, abandoned flame-companion’s gaze.
Bright morning star; black night.
Flinching to feel, sawn splintered strut,
Spined circlet, steely-slivered nail;
Betrayal; gaol; flail; rich-robe arrayal;
‘Hail, King of Jews!’ Wine, stale. Life, frail, fail;
Last breath exhale; torn veil.
Kindle with Passion-sense dull flesh.
Roll free capped stone, trapped inward sight.
Unbind to scent, taste, sing the Passion-song,
To feel and long, with throng, alive and strong
Dark-journeying to light.
© Christopher Wilson 2008