by , under church, readings, services

Every year Holy Week is about something else, and it’s not always what I expect when I go into it. This year –and I found out on Thursday night, in the Matins of Good Friday, sort of average– it’s about injustice. Gross, harsh injustice, not only against Christ but apparently against all humanity.

This makes some of the Gospel readings sound very sarcastic, especially the exchange with Pilate in John 18-19 (“If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you”) but also the equivalent passage in Matthew (“Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?”). I’m looking forward to the Royal Hours tomorrow, which have a full Passion each. I really want to hear the story in four different voices in that light.

Every year, too, almost without fail, I have a small or larger sudden insight. This year it was “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” I said to Choirmistress: “I know exactly why God has forsaken him. It’s because it’s the human who has to die.” Cosmic drama, too, after all.

And the cosmic drama wouldn’t be so overwhelming if it wasn’t set in a world of people, individual people with a name. Poor Malchus who gets his ear cut off by Simon Peter in a fit of temper. Simon the Cyrenian pressed into carrying the Cross, “the father of Alexander and Rufus”. I’ve had a picture of them in my mind for ages, the greying farmer and his teenaged sons, the younger one red-haired, gangly, taller than his brother. The mother of Zebedee’s sons (one year I was so tired that I wondered vaguely who the father of Zebedee’s sons was) and the other women. Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus with him, who I remember described in an article about a descent-from-the-Cross painting as “the man who goes to make a cup of tea”. (That’s the way I tend to respond to crisis as well: I have to do something.)


  1. Adrian Morgan

    I’m commenting on this late, but now is the moment that I feel motivated to express my thoughts (probably because I should be in bed).

    I’m not sure what you meant by “it’s the human who has to die”. Granted, there’s a lot I don’t know about your personal theology, but I’m aware of various perspectives on the crucifixion and there’s something here I’m not seeing.

    My understanding is that the “why have you forsaken me” line is a quotation from some Old Testament psalm (though I never have looked it up). Insofar as I can remember how I interpreted the passage back when I was a Christian, it was that in quoting a single line, Jesus was actually invoking the psalm in its entirity. We’re all familiar with the fact that when people are emotionally overwrought they sometimes find comfort in listening to music with lyrics that resonate with their feelings, and perhaps for Jesus, in that moment, those were the words that really struck home. It isn’t actually tantamount to a statement that God did forsake him: it’s emotional rather than propositional.

    Of course, I’m not Christian at all anymore, but I’m pretty sure that’s how I looked at it when I was.


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