Today is Good Friday, the day when we remember that Jesus died a cruel and lonely death. I remember how a priest I quite admired told me a few years ago, “English has a way with euphemism”. Indeed, today is the perfect example. And yet, our Christian faith has a way of turning things ‘up-side-down’ that in fact they end up being, quite paradoxically, ‘right-side-up’.
Some years ago I started to ponder on the mysteries we celebrate during the days of the Holy Week in more depth. This has further deepened three years ago when I was same age as Jesus was when He died. This is the Week when we can bring all our mess, all our desires, all our failings and sins and disappointments and heart-aches to Jesus, we can join them to Christ so that He can redeem whatever is broken in us, whatever is hurting. I think He does not only wish to redeem us by giving us the gift of eternal life, but He wishes to do so already now as well.
The beauty of reflecting on and living through it year after year showed me how there is always something more to discover. And the need to join my, our deepest hurts and needs with His deep redeeming love never ceases. Jesus’ public ministry lasted around three years and then it was abruptly ended with His, humanly speaking, untimely death. And yet, it was all part of God’s loving plan.
Lent, was our entry on the road towards Jesus’ last hours, towards the Holy Week and Easter. The end of Jesus’ journey on earth was the very purpose why He came – to give us life, so we can have it to the full. As we can witness today, on Good Friday, the journey towards the fullness of life goes through the most excruciating pain, which is very contra-intuitive for us. It goes through humility, littleness, and often the lack of understanding of what will come after. Good Friday as a journey towards the fullness of life is like the first winter that was oblivious to the fact that after winter comes spring. The first winter does not have a memory of any previous spring that it can rely on. It is bleak, stripped of all hope, and very lonely, heavy with sadness.
Today is the day when we remember that God died. Can there be anything more mind-shattering and heart-breaking than the death of a loving God? If you have ever had all your hopes shattered, all that you thought about life broken into pieces, if you ever felt like a part of your soul is forever locked into winter, with no hope for further spring, you will understand how this day was for Jesus’ disciples. In the face of such despair, only silence, tears, prayers, sighs of the heart are suitable response. And I think this is one of the reasons why we don’t sing Alleluia through Lent. In the light of the Good Friday, you cannot sing Alleluia. It would be irreverent. You can only be silent before such mystery of Love of all loves being nailed on the Cross, left to die. And yet this death was Love’s ultimate release. This was Love’s triumph, but that will have to remain hidden from our eyes and our understanding for quite some time after Good Friday. God’s perspective and our human perspective don’t always match (there is not judgement in that, it it just as it is); but that is a topic for tomorrow, for Holy Saturday.
Let me come back to the Alleluia. As far as I am aware, Alleluia has two meanings. It is “used to express praise or thanks to God”, but it is also “used to express relief, welcome, or gratitude”. Another reason for not singing Alleluia yet, is that we would find it very hard, if nor impossible, to sing a song of relief out of all those experiences that break our hearts. We need not only Lent, but more so the Holy Week to do their deep healing work in us before we can express relief and gratitude from within the exiled parts of our life. We need to let the wisdom of the desert to help us befriend the deserts we carry inside; otherwise our praises will be superficial. We need to let the fresh blossoms on the trees to slowly lead the way before our inner desert places are ready to blossom and sing. Alleluia has to rise out of the deep silence of our greatest sadness, only then it will be truly real.
If there is such a thing that you would call your ‘deepest sadness’, these are the days to help it heal by allowing a song to rise from within it. How can we do that? The way I do it is during singing parts of the Mass (for example) I imagine that I am singing with my whole being, and I try to see if the parts in me that are hurting can also sing. Initially it is a bit like the watermill that weakly started to roll water around it, collecting mud and pebbles and perhaps occasional piece of gold with the water. The mud with pebbles are my inner exiled parts, the water is the song, a rehearsal for the Alleluia. Another and more important way to bring a song into the dark chambers of my inner being, is to join whatever is my deepest sadness at the time with Jesus’s last hours. I make a resolve to keep brining it with me into the liturgies of the Holy Week. Mind you, that can be quite painful, but remember, this is the way towards the fullness of life. Jesus said to Peter during the Last Supper, “If I don’t wash you, you can have no share with me”. Maybe He may tell us, me for sure, “If you don’t bring what is most precious to you into these days, no matter how painful that may be, you can have no share with me”. Tough language, but He knows where this journey will lead. Bringing our deepest sadness and joining it with His, is not only healing for us, but it is an ultimate act of trust.
When we are aware of God’s presence on our journey and when we let God take our interior exiled places through the pain of Good Friday, into the silence of Holy Saturday, towards the Resurrection, we join our deepest sadness with His, so that He can join His deepest joy with us. Only then will our inner exiled places be able to exclaim on Easter Sunday the joy that empty grave brings, only then will our deepest sadness sing.
© Iva Beranek (Dublin, 3rd April 2015)
Photo by © Iva Beranek