A Welcoming Priest
This Week

Good Friday

[Note: I wrote this last Friday, but haven't had the time to post it.]

I’m writing today, but not posting since I’m fasting from the Internet for today (sounds strange, but I do notice!).

One of the strangest, and hardest, things when my father passed away was his funeral. It was on a beautiful October day – just the sort of day that he should have been outside working in his yard. This was wrong. This can’t be happening.

I have the same trouble with Good Friday. It would make more sense, every year, for it to take place on a bleak winter day. The weather should be in tune with the worship. But today, though it started out cloudy, was warm and beautiful by the time we left church. My daughter said that that often seems to happen on Good Friday. And since Good Friday took place after the Passover, it will always be in the spring, when the world is beautiful and mourning seems out of place.

The service, however, puts the mourning at the forefront – the readings, the prayers and the actions. This year was the first year for my younger son to attend since last year my daughter was sick, and, before that, he was too young. This morning, we talked about the service while watering plants.  I wanted to make sure he knew that this was the most serious service of the year – because of the Crucifixion. “Mommy, that’s when they nailed Jesus to the Cross, right?” Yes.

“Mommy, why is there a black cloth hanging on the Cross?” Because black is a color of mourning. See, the priests and deacons are also in black, as is the choir, and also, interestingly enough, a good bit of the congregation is somberly dressed. My daughter wore brown today having decided that her other, more brightly colored dresses didn’t seem fitting. No organ today – all the singing, and there is less of it, is done A Capella. That will make the organ seem more joyful at the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday and at the Easter Sunday services.

I realized that I again didn’t bring enough kleenex, as I got teary during the Gospel reading. I’ve been hearing the Passion for decades, but I still tear up. I guess I’d worry if I didn’t. The sermon also emphasized the feelings I expressed above: This is wrong. This shouldn’t be happening.

The Mass and the Episcopalian service are close enough that I occasionally get my words mixed up and have to keep myself from adding “And I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the angels and saints and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me” during the Episcopalian Confession of Sin. As does the Catholic Church, the Episcopalian Good Friday Service has the prayers (called the Solemn Collects by Episcopalians) where we stand to pray aloud together and then kneel and pray in silence. Dear Husband and his siblings, when they were growing up in the Catholic Church, called this “Let us kneel, let us stand.” They found it interminable, as did younger son today. “I’m getting tired of this!” But he behaved well for the most part. I also teared up during the Solemn Collects, praying, again, during the silent prayers, for a fellow blogger who recently lost her son. 

Before Communion, both Churches have the Veneration of the Cross. A large Cross is brought in and prayers are said:

… My peace I gave, which the world cannot give, and washed your feet as a sign of my love, but you draw the sword to strike in my name, and seek high places in my kingdom. I offered you my body and blood, but you scatter and deny and abandon me.

Response: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

I sent the Spirit of truth to guide you, but you closed your hearts to the Counselor. I prayed that all may be as one in the Father and me, but you continue to quarrel and divide. I called you to go and bring forth fruit, but you cast lots for my clothing.

Response: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

I grafted you into the tree of my chosen people Israel, but you turned on them with persecution and mass murder. I made you joint heirs with them of my covenants, but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt.

Response: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.

Communion is simpler on Good Friday.  There is no consecration, and every one comes up for Communion ina line rather than kneeling at the altar rail.  In fact, since the altar area is bare, the altar rail has been removed.

But, even though the music is sparser it still is rich. 

I grew up hearing my father sing the bass parts to hymns at church. Now, when they’re sitting with me, I hear my older son and husband singing the bass parts. Or, when older son is in the choir, I reach to hear him in the bass part. It’s a familiar sound. I was blessed today to hear the bass parts sung, with feeling, by Confessing Reader. The pew ahead of us was full – Mrs. Confessing Reader, Confessing Readerlets (or, should I say, Confessing Primers?), and friends and relations, with no room for Confessing Reader when he arrived. But we had an empty space next to us, blessing us with stereo basses (since the choir was on the other side).

We talked to some people afterwards and found out about the college plans for a friend of my teens.  I felt more at home there than I have in years. We walked out into the warm sunshine and drove home with the accompaniment of dogwoods and redbuds peeking out of the North Carolina forests, and the accompaniment of congregation (with prominent bass part) still singing “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded” in my head (the harmonization was by Bach – older son said, “So that’s why the bass part is so interesting!). We got home to find that dear husband, who had a lot of work today since he’ll be away from the office for most of next week, was able to get off early!

It would be easy to let the meaning of Good Friday slip by in the good busy-ness of life if we didn't stop to go and focus on it.



Todd Granger

Thank you for the kind words, ML. It was truly a blessing to see you and children there as well. Thanks for letting me slide into the pew next to you.

There really are few hymn harmonizations as good as - and none better than - Papa Bach's for Herzlich tut mich verlangen (Passion Chorale - I think that particular one is from the St Matthew's Passion) for any of the voices, but for the basses particularly. The C# in the final phrase is especially well-placed.

And "Confessing Primers" - I love it! That will surely show up in one of my future posts!

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