Good Friday and the silence of death
Yesterday for Good Friday we went to an Anglican church in my neighborhood. Because the service was listed as going from noon to 3 p.m., we assumed it was the service of Jesus’ “Seven Words” on the Cross, in which there is a sermon or meditation on each of Jesus’ last statements, interspersed by prayers and a few minutes of silence. But it turned out not to be that type of service. It was a Good Friday Mass, but extraordinarily long, consisting, in part, of the Passion of St. John, the Twelve Stations of the Cross, individual kneeling before a wooden cross for those who wished, and Mass from the reserved Sacrament.
After the liturgy of the Eucharist was completed, at the very end of the service, there took place something I don’t remember having seen in any kind of church service: a silence of twenty or thirty minutes. It became clear that this was a most appropriate observation for Good Friday. An entire congregation sitting there, doing and saying absolutely nothing for all that time. No distractions. No escape from the brute fact that Jesus was dead—dead, and that was it. One of the things that happened was that you entered imaginatively into the psychological state of the disciples on this day, how they must have felt, having followed the God-man, the Christ, who could do anything, perform any miracle, who spoke in streams of divine discourses, and then seeing him—the Master of human and divine reality—stripped, tortured, humiliated, nailed naked to a cross, helpless, suffering pathetically, and now dead. It was the loss of the highest, and of the highest hopes. They had followed and loved and obeyed this man, the greatest thing there had ever been in this world, and now he was a tattered ruined corpse, The world had come to a stop, and there was nothing left but silence.