Christians blog frantically at Good Friday. There is a great need to communicate what we feel so deeply, a great urgency. And then again, on this day, of all days, words fall away. We are left with an enormity that defies speech. Perhaps that is why , in my heart of hearts, I find the actions of Maundy Thursday, and the silence of its Vigil, and the simplicity of the Veneration of the Cross so much more fulfilling than the Three Hours, fine as they are at St Mary’s.
On Good Friday we confront the agony of the world, and the suffering of God. On other days, we intellectualise in a desperate attempt to explain to ourselves and to others how we can speak of the love of God when his world is suffused with suffering at every level. On Good Friday, we stop and simply watch his slow torture. And what can one say about that?
Perhaps only this. That we also confront everything we do, and fail to do, that adds to the pain of the world. The beggar not helped, the angry word, the damage to waterways, the tree felled, the creature run over – every choice large or small which does not help to heal.
And we sit with this pain, the pain we cause and the pain we suffer. We sit very quietly. We do not pretend it is less than it is, or that it is somewhere else, or it never happened. We do not pretend that we caused all of it, or that we caused none of it. We just sit and try very hard to look at it.
And we hope there will be a circle. We hope that if we can bear to see the pain of the young man on that cross, then we may yet bear to see the pain of the ‘failed asylum seeker’ terrified of deportation and more suffering. We hope that if we can see the pain caused to the beautiful world by climate change, we may see the pain of that woman cradling her dead son more clearly.
We hope that if we can sit with their pain, we can also sit with our own pain. And this day, we do not seek to transform it, or be redeemed by it, or to rise out of it – we just ask for patience to see it and to bear it. And by the time we reach evening, we are exhausted, and wrung out.
I have some sympathy with those who say: ‘My faith is about joy’. Mine is too. But a joy which swallows up pain. Not a joy which evades it. And this day, this terrible day, is about simply sitting and looking at the cross. And there, no words serve.