When we get to church, not only have we missed the Hour of Reflection service, but there are no seats left now. Dawn woefully leads us to a spot in the St. Anthony Chapel, where we can sit on the marble steps, dwarfed beneath and behind one of the massive pillars that form the cathedral crossing. The four pillars each sport a Gospel author; the other side of this particular one depicts St. John. Our side in the chapel is blank marble, except for an audio speaker about a third of the way up it. So we can’t see anything, but we can hear just fine.
And we can at least sit. Unfortunately there’s also a lot of kneeling, and on the marble steps it’s pretty painful. But then I suppose it’s rather gauche to whine about pain when it’s the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord.
The reading from Isaiah is utterly and overwhelmingly heartbreaking.
He was spurned and avoided by people,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
one of those from whom people hide their faces,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
I think of this woman whom Dawn and I see most mornings on our walk to work. She is apparently homeless, or is semi-homeless, or is in some way a street person anyway. We see her when we walk by the Catholic Charities facility on D Street, the John L. Young Center. We say good morning to her whenever we pass by, or we exchange waves if she’s on the other side of the street. I love how excitedly she waves to us. She doesn’t seem inclined to talk to us, though. We were crossing the street together recently and I tried to initiate some type of conversation with her, but she just kind of wandered away. But anyway, she has this issue, some sort of compulsion, where she applies cream or balm or something to her lips and all around her mouth and nose around her face. I’m not sure if she has a rash or condition, something that requires this medicating, or if she has simply this compulsion that really now has made her face raw and rubbed and chafed and looks really painful. Sometimes her lips will be cracked open and it’ll be hard to look; it just seems so dreadfully painful.
This Isaiah reading makes me think of her, and how there’s nothing I can do for her, but that she seems to suffer so. And suffer in anonymity.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the Lord laid upon him
the guilt of us all.
And I love the strong verbs in the passage: pierced and crushed. It’s a great passage for Good Friday.
The gospel reading is two chapters from St. John, from Gethsemane to being laid in the tomb. Again with the “I AM,” what Christ says to the gang who have come to arrest him, echoing the name that God said to Moses. And I don’t know why but I like the odd little disagreement about the inscription on the cross.
“Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’
but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.”
“What I have written, I have written.”
Again, I have no idea why this sticks out to me. It’s a funny little moment. I wonder if that’s why it’s memorable enough for St. John to have included it. St. John is always harsh to my ears when he writes “the Jews” instead of “the Sanhedrin” or whatever. So this might be more of that, only this time a little more subtle, but anyhow St. John’s way of making the Jews more responsible than Pilate. Or it’s also not altogether dissimilar to the “I AM.” The grammatical construction is somewhat the same, declaring that something is simply what it is. The subtext is power, either the power of God or the power of the prefect. Power does not need to explain. Maybe it’s that parallelism that I like. Or maybe it’s just Pilate being snotty, and that’s kinda funny in so solemn a setting.
There’s veneration of the cross afterwards, but there’s such a long, long line of people waiting. And we have to go to my Mom’s to help pack for the move. So we don’t stay. But I think veneration of the cross is way cool. It’s way primitive or something, kissing the feet of the corpus on the crucifix. And I like the polite way that the altar server will wipe the feet after every kiss.