April 10, 2020
by Molly Mattingly
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Good Friday of the Lord's Passion
Lectionary: 40

Isaiah 52:13--53:12
Psalms 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1--19:42

Praying Lent Home

Preparing for the Good Friday Liturgy

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Reflecting on the Passion in John's Gospel

“Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

I’m writing this reflection in the last week of March. The world has become a very strange place as we respond to COVID-19. Who knows what it will look like by the time we arrive at Good Friday on April 10, 2020? At this point, in most places around the world, Triduum in Catholic churches will look much different than it usually does. We will likely not celebrate these highest of our holy days in the places of worship that have held our prayer at this touchstone moment in the liturgical year. We will likely not even celebrate in the same physical place as the people we usually pray with on these days. (Thank God for the technology that allows us to pray together in virtual space.)

I love Holy Week. This is my favorite time of the liturgical year. When I was ten years old, I told my friend that I loved Lent because it had the best music. She informed me that you’re not supposed to like it; you’re supposed to be sad. But I’ve always loved the plaintive, longing melodies, the haunting, melancholy harmonies (especially dorian mode, for you music nerds), and the reflective pace of music for this time of year. Palm Sunday and Good Friday have some of the most beautiful, emotive music of Christian tradition.* It draws me close to Christ’s suffering, and to the suffering of all those Christ loves (which is everyone, especially those suffering most). I usually feel very close to Jesus through this week’s scripture, music, and special liturgical actions. This year will the first in about 27 years that I haven’t attended the Good Friday Celebration of the Passion in person.

I love singing Chrysogonus Waddell, OCSO’s haunting setting of Psalm 31 on Good Friday.** (Here’s last year’s. You can keep listening for Fr. Amidon’s homily.) I encourage you to read the entire psalm text. In the antiphon (Ps 31:6) we repeat Jesus’ last words on the cross in the Gospel of Luke (23:46): “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” Jesus (and Luke’s community) surely knew what came next: “You will redeem me, Lord, God of truth.” In lament, the psalmist describes the suffering and intense fear and anxiety that Jesus was surely experiencing as well: “I am in distress; affliction is wearing down my eyes, my throat, and my insides. My life is worn out by sorrow.” And always, the psalmist remembers their trust in God: “I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’”  The psalm ends, “Be strong and take heart, all who hope in the Lord.”

At the darkest moment of our salvation history, the moment the most fully human person chose to enter into the deepest human uncertainty, that Person cried out with a song of surrender, trust, and hope. What do we surrender into God’s hands today?

We know this story: death is not the end. Resurrection is coming soon. Still, we may find ourselves in a similar spiritual place to Jesus’ disciples on that Good Friday. Their world had been turned upside down, their expectations for the future suddenly changed. They were afraid and uncertain of the future. How could this be real? How were they supposed to live in this new reality? They had to re-learn how to trust God. How are we re-learning how to trust God in our time?

* Here is a Spotify playlist of some of my favorite Passiontide music. The styles are eclectic. Some of it is liturgical; some of it is not; one is a Christmas carol; and there are four different arrangements of “What Wondrous Love” because I collect versions that hymn. (It is in dorian mode.)

** The first year I sang this psalm setting, I heard a thud behind me halfway through it. I assumed one of the choir members had dropped a binder. When I finished the psalm and returned to the choir, they were all doing their best to stifle giggles. “A pigeon flew into the window. Twice.” This led to one of my maxims in liturgical ministry: “You can do your best to plan a beautiful, solemn Good Friday liturgy, and sometimes a pigeon flies into the window.” We make plans, and then we go with the flow when plans need to change.

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