Webster’s defines this word as
– The eve of a religious festival observed by staying awake as a devotional exercise.
– Ritual devotions observed on the eve of a holy day. Often used in the plural.
Each year in the parish we keep vigil between the end of the Holy Thursday Service and the Beginning of the Great Easter vigil. Tonight I am sitting in the stillness of our church sanctuary. It is quiet. Wonderfully quiet. All in fact I can hear s the tapping of these keys and the sound of my breathing. The church is dark and stark, left that way at the end of the Holy Thursday Ritual of stripping the altar. It is a reminder to us of the grey and dark reality of the tomb. I love that this parish keeps this tradition. It is modelled after the visit Jesus makes to Gethsemane to pray and upon his return finds the apostles asleep. Jesus implores them to keep awake. Here in the quiet, I can feel all that is holy and sacred all around me.
Sitting here on this Good Friday is a physical reminder of the tomb of Jesus. All that lights the church are votive candles. Some on the window sills and place around the church. A couple of candles sit on the table with the Reserve Sacrament. Then there are the 11 candles that are the focus. The primary image in the church is a cross. The cross stands 12 feet tall. It is over 8 feet across. It is very prominent in this holy space. It houses the 11 candles that draw the most attention. The cross is the image that is most significant for us on this important day.
It is for Christians a sign of pain and of hope, of suffering and of triumph, of shame and pride. It is an image that lives in paradox. We shudder to think of the pain of this instrument of capital punishment yet we are so proud to display this sign in our churches, our homes and indeed even on our bodies. Today I the Good Friday Liturgy we offered a meditation on the cross. We prayed and sung of its significance. We made clear that it should remind us of the price paid for us all.
It is wonderful in here. As I pray I am filled with the feelings that are paradoxical. I felt sorrow and grief about today. I feel the dismay in my heart about the crucifixion. I feel sorrow and I am contrite for driving in those nails, for spitting in that Holy Face. I feel ashamed for denying him. I feel embarrassed by my own ability to betray God. In short I guess I am taking time to repent this Good Friday. Then there is the other side. I cannot look into the darkness without imagining how bright and colourful the place will look as we celebrate the resurrection. I can feel my heart race a little faster when I think of blessing the new paschal candle, lit from the blessed and holy fire. I feel joy at know that this darkness makes the light of the Easter Vigil more impressive and more startling. While it is dark in here and there is darkness in my soul as I repent, I am illumined by the hope of the resurrection, I am revived by the joy that awaits us and I am sp grateful for the sacrifice paid for me and for us all.
I love that I can sit here and pray. I love that there is such peace in the Christian story. I love that as a community we have the courage to enter into the pain and darkness of this day. Some Christian Communities jump the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Easter Vigil experience. We are different. In entering into the pain of Good Friday we are showing in worship what we display on our journey of discipleship. We enter into each others pain and suffering and sorrow, knowing that in so doing we can make a difference. We walk toward Christ in his brokenness. We enter there knowing that there is sweet light and hope and love on the other side of that grief.
I love these times of prayer. God I can hear you in the silence!