I was asked to offer an invitation to the assembly at the beginning of my parish’s Good Friday liturgy. Here is the text I have sketched:
My Brothers and Sisters:
I come before you to invite you into the Good Friday liturgy: this memorial of the passion and death of the Lord.
Much of our time during this Easter Triduum we spend in fasting, solitude and contemplation: we watch; we wait; meditating on the great mysteries of our faith. Nourished by that fasting and enriched by that solitude we can then come together on this most solemn of days to remember Christ’s suffering and death.
The church denies itself the joy of the Mass on this day. No bread will be consecrated here. The altar is bare, the tabernacle empty – this service is stark and severe.
We will hear the Word of God. We will pray, with a series of prayers that strives to encompass all of humanity. We will acclaim the cross in our midst; then, processing forward as we do for communion, we will reverence the cross by touching or kissing it, renewing our commitment to live under that holy sign’s challenge and comfort each day. Using bread that was consecrated at last night’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we will receive communion, uniting ourselves with the suffering Christ. We will go forth to continue our watching and waiting, observing, as we leave, a deep and strict silence that springs from the awe-inspiring nature of the day.
The Triduum is a time when we ask the ultimate questions – why do we suffer, why is there evil, why must we die?
Why, in Haiti,
why, in Afghanistan,
why, at the graveside,
why, in our streets,
why, in our hearts.
In the words of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, we ask “If I were to cry out, would any angel hear me?”
In full awareness of this world’s brokenness, this day, in this service, we will struggle to grasp, struggle to somehow take in God’s answer to our why: we watch; we wait; witnesses to God made man, a man tortured unto death, death on a cross.
We will begin now, prostrating ourselves utterly in body and spirit before the God who suffers for us and with us.