Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people, that in their vocation and ministry they may serve you in holiness and truth to the glory of your name; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray for the nations of the world and their leaders:
for Elizabeth our Queen and the High Court of Parliament,
for those who administer the law and all essential workers,
that by God’s help the world may live in peace and freedom.
Let us pray for all those who suffer:
for all who are sick,
for those in darkness, and in despair, in loneliness and in fear;
for prisoners, and refugees,
for victims of false accusations and violence,
for those at the point of death and those who watch beside them,
that God in his mercy will sustain them.
Readings: Hebrews 10: 1-25; John 19:1-37
Many words and meanings come to mind today. I think of the opening prayer of the day which, uniquely of all the Collects of the year, refers to the Church as a family, such is the filial relation we share before Christ’s cross. I think also of the Epistle to the Hebrews which exhorts us not to neglect to meet together, and am mindful of those who do come out week by week and never miss these festivals. But today is more fundamental than words and their meanings, that is why the Passion is narrated in John’s Gospel, and indeed all the Gospels, simply as an event, without much interpretation being given. This event is itself the centre of God’s dealings with the world, the turning point of the world’s history, the source from which lives of faith flow. Words, meanings, the strengthening of the bonds of love in the life of the Church, the maintenance of peace in the world, all flow after this event. For today we must stay with the event itself and pause.
Here is a poem which helps us to stay at the cross. It is Good Friday by Vernon Watkins, another Welsh poet.
After the winter solstice came
Ice and low flame,
The cockerel step by which the light
Shortened the sleep of earth and night.
And slowly as the days of Lent
Waxed and were spent,
Trees, birds and flowers all increased
In expectation of the feast.
Spring with such promise did abound
That the gemmed ground
Already showed in clustered grass
The printless light of unseen stars.
But now light grows where rays decline.
Now the crushed wine
Transfigures all, leaf, blossom, fruit,
By reference to the sacred root.
Day must die here that day may break.
Time must forsake
Time, and this moment be preferred
To any copy, light or word.
In this a night we apprehend
Which has no end.
Day dies. We make our choice, and say:
“This, this we seek; no second day.”
Not in the speculative skies
But in these nails of darkness driven
Into these hands which hold up heaven.
For, as old ages antedate
Love’s present weight,
So the pulse falling gives the chain
Momentum to what years remain.
All lives, to flourish, here should stop
Still; and all hope
To live, must die here first, and pull
New ages to this mountain skull.
Now let the geography of lands
Learn from these hands,
And from these feet the unresting seas
Take, from unfathomed grief, their ease.
Our mortal life is composite
Until we knit
All possible days to this, and make
A seal, from which true day must break.
Come, Easter, come: I was afraid
Your star had strayed.
It was behind our darkest fears
Which could not see their God for tears.