Good Friday; a day of sadness, anticipation, emotion, silence, shouting .

In my childhood it was dominated by the Walk of Witness, a gathering of the churches in thetown to walk through the streets, singing badly and in my mind witnessing only to the fact we were a bit weird. We were *supposed* to be quiet, which in some ways made it all much worse, because as soon as you’re supposed to be quiet  as a child of course you can’t be. This was too the era of the Baptist black shirt wth full collar, when the minister wouldn’t be seen without suit and shirt front and the ring of confidence.

We would assemble at the green in the centre by the Methodist church where a short service was held, and we could then be let loose on the hot cross buns with margarine (it was the 70s , but this is significant) in the church hall. Honestly. Butter or nothing. Do Not Ever desecrate a HCB with marge….

My teen years allowed me to miss the increasingly straggly Walk because I was involved in preparing for the service, playing or reading or doing some bit of drama. For this relief, much thanks, as the bard said…

My experience of Walks of Witness since has not been much better, they seem only to witness to the fact we’re still weird, nuttery in fact, the increase in Good Friday as a full on Bank holiday shopping opportunity has only emphasised that. What is more we witness to this weirdness and then tend to disappear into a church building for the bit that  might make more of an impact – the gathering and vigil around the cross.

I’d scrap the walk for any more than the shortest of gathering processions and  have a simple outdoor service, Christians gathered together, the cross at the centre, simplicity, silence, visual more than words and hot cross buns with butter. Good Friday morning is also/alternatively the time to really involve the children. Workshops, simple GF activities, stations, reflective activities and short time of worship. This involves the families and the community and keeps the afternoon free for the Three Hours, it’s more than just icing biscuits though, this is the opportunity to really immerse young people in the story (their parents too) multi sensory stations, visuals and music. The sort of stuff that gets to the non verbal bit of our brains and spirits.

Today I set off for the Cathedral again for the Three Hours ( no walks involved). The Preparation was led by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. I’ve read a lot of his stuff but never heard him, a dead ringer for Dumbledore (see, more Hogwarts !) he spoke in three parts about the companionship of Christ, the true sympathy he has, touched by and sharing in our suffering, sharing it but also showing us the way out. Suffering man, suffering God.
He spoke of the fact that it was not just physical pain that Christ endured, but the emotional agony, perhaps deeper and more severe than physical pain, as he prayed in the Garden. Only with this emotional side too can we begin to comprehend the totality of his suffering.
What more could he have done for us that he has not done?

He is with us in our utter isolation and detached state, in our loneliness and rejection. Truly he has suffered as we do.
“he came to his own and his own did not receive him ”
Christ accepts being cut off even from God for our sakes. All for love.
The Cross was not a disaster put right by the Resurrection. The Cross is victory, hidden victory, the Resurrection makes that victory manifest. The wounds of Christ are seen on his risen body, the continuity. The marks of his suffering will always remain, though risen & glorified he is not separated from the suffering of the world. At this moment Jesus is suffering what you suffer and helping you to overcome.
The Cross and Resurrection are one event, one victory. We need to see this, perhaps they are illustrated in the two sorts of crucifixes, the dead Christ and Christus Victor.
It is finished is not a cry of resignation but of triumph. The victory is won. A victory of suffering love. “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”

That line from John 1 has often seemed to me to sit oddly in its tense, reading it as we often do at Christmas, should it read the darkness did not overcome it? No. For this victory over darkness is not in the past it is continual and present. That hit me again.

The Preparation over the choir sang the Litany, in Procession and the Liturgy of Good Friday followed with sublime music for Psalm 22, and The Passion according to St John.
Sophie Hacker had created an amazing corpus for the Cross, unveiled at this point.
It seems to me to combine a twist of agony and a gesture of triumph the suffering and the victory combined and so spoke directly to me of what the Archbishop had been saying.
So few words are needed to convey so much. The Reserved Sacrament was offered, each host broken into the recipients hand “the body of Christ, broken for you” The Reproaches in a setting by Sanders and Tenebrae by Poulenc, and we left. Pitched into the business and bustle of the bank holiday city.

Father forgive them for they know not. … How will they know unless someone tells them?

Perhaps this post has come full circle.. The walk of witness should be our lives.

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