Good Friday

Today, for the Western Church, is called Good Friday - a day we call "good" because it is the day when the most bad thing that has ever happened brought the whole of the world the most good. Tonight my husband and sons will be at church, and I will not be. I was not at church last night for the Maundy either. (Maundy Thursday is so called because "maundatum" is the "new commandment" Christ gave as he knelt to wash the feet of his disciples - the new commandment is that we "love one another" as he has loved us.)

The reason I have not been at church is because I have been completely laid low by some particularly virulent strain of something related to the common cold or flu. For the first time in 13 years, I'm home during all of Holy Week.

I have been blowing my nose, hoping my forehead doesn't crack and burst. And I have been sneezing and hoping my forehead doesn't crack and burst. And I have been coughing and hoping my forehead doesn't crack and burst. And I have been crying - and finding relief for the pressure in my head as the tears take away some of the pain that is coming from I know not where. Nowhere in particular, maybe. Everywhere at once, is what it feels like.

The painting is Roger van der Weyden's Crucifixion. Tonight, while the congregation sings the hymns of contrition and pain, I will hear them without being there to hear them. As the choir chants one of the most beautiful and sorrowful pieces of music in the world (the Good Friday "Reproaches") and one by one, in quiet and usually tearful procession, the people make their three double-genuflections and then kneel one at a time to kiss the foot of the cross, I will hear them. "O my people, what have I done unto thee? Or wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against me." I will hear them, without being with them. In an oddly equal and opposite form, I will be in the Narthex again.

Perhaps this illness is a gift. Perhaps my inability to participate in a way that brings each small sound and the smell of incense to my body is a new access for me. From here I can see and hear a broader spectrum of the whole. There have been a dozen repetitions of this week already embedded in the deepest part of my soul's ears and eyes and tongue. I know this Week. This year, I see the beauty and pain and joy from a hill outside the town. In my mind's eye I watch what I cannot see, and I have never seen it like this before. It is beautiful.

Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets' warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

Oh what fear man's bosom rendeth,
when from heaven the Judge descendeth,
on whose sentence all dependeth.

1 comment:

Polly said...

Oh dear - it sounds like your body is in the midst of a healing crisis of some sort.

For me, the weight of Lent feels like a grinding pressing weight. We had went to confession first and then the Tenebrae service last night. My eldest sang "Jesus In Your Dying Woes" -- all 21 verses - in between readings. Very nice.

I hope that you can emerge from this weekend as a butterfly - ready to face spring, the returning light, and the your empty sinuses - with renewed expressive energy.