“May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”
On Good Friday, after the Passion of the Lord has been read and prayed, a large rough wooden cross is carried into the midst of the gathered community. A hymn extolling its glory is sung and then the people are invited to come forward for a moment of quiet reflection before the cross.
Some come and leave quickly. Others are a longer time coming but once there they linger.
Some lift up their heads and gaze upon the cross. As the hymn writer says, they “survey” it, striving with St. Paul to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love”. (Ephesians 3:18) Others simply bow their heads in prayer.
Some reach out to touch the cross. Others lean forward to kiss it. And a few actually cling to it, yearning perhaps for personal pardon and for reconciliation with others.
Some rise from this moment with tears in their eyes – a mix of sorrow for sins committed and gratitude for sins forgiven. Others rise it seems with awe and wonder, their souls won yet again by the love of our Saviour, “so amazing, so divine”.
However we rise from this moment we make our way from this solemn liturgy into the world. Having looked at the cross we’re now called to “look through the cross”. That’s actually the title of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recommended book for Lent this year. In it we are reminded that the church “stands under a calling to work as far as it can for the unity and harmony of the human race. Its place in the conflicts of the world is not on the sidelines, scolding or weeping, but instead at the heart of those conflicts working to see reconciliation overcome enmity… Perhaps the Church is never more truly itself than when it is busy reconciling enemies, healing rifts, enabling harmony, taking a cross-shaped posture in the world.” A significant measure of our integrity for such work is the extent to which we ourselves truly regard one another, all else aside, as “brothers and sisters for whom Christ died”. (1 Corinthians 8:11)
This is how we enter into that deep silence commemorating Christ’s burial and descent among the dead.
In that silence I invite you to be prayerful – for the Church, its faith, unity, and ministry in every place; and for the world, its healing and reconciliation. Pray for all who govern, all who work to avert escalation of armed conflict within and among the nations, all who labour long and hard for just and lasting peace.
When that deep silence is broken by the message of the angel, “He is Risen”, we find ourselves gathered again around that old rugged cross. Now a white cloth is draped over its arms. It is in fact, in some places, one of the fair linen cloths that cover the altar. Those cloths often bear five crosses – one at each corner, and one in the center, representing the wounds of Christ for us and for our salvation.
As we come to the cross this Holy Week and Easter looking “at it” and “through it” may we know in our hearts and reflect in our lives the great love of our Crucified and Risen Lord.
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