On this most solemn of days, maybe we will easily find time to reflect on our Lord’s passion or maybe we will struggle to find time because our day is already filled with passion: the passionate cries of a small child or the outburst of an angsty teen. Today, maybe we will be able to fully embrace the rich traditions of the Church in the celebration of the Lord’s passion, or maybe we will embrace small children who are too wiggly to wrangle during a long liturgy. Or maybe we will bravely wrangle those wiggly children during the liturgy.
No matter what our Good Friday looks like today, we can all keep at the forefront of our minds this simple message from Isaiah: “By his stripes, we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
We are all in need of healing. We have all been wounded, and we have wounded others. We are not perfect mothers. But today, let us remember that we have been healed. We have been made whole by the wounds of him who wounded no one. In his passion and cross, he takes upon himself all our wounds along with the wounds we have inflicted upon others and applies the sweet balm of grace and mercy.
Although the powerful passion narrative dominates today’s readings, this strong message of hope that begins in Isaiah is woven through each part of the liturgy. In the Psalms, we call upon God: “Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your kindness. Take courage and be stouthearted, all you who hope in the Lord” (Psalms 31:16;24). The psalmist reminds us that we must not allow ourselves to remain in the darkness of our wounds. We need to turn our faces to the light of Christ. The reading encourages us to take courage and hope!
St. Paul, in his Letter to the Hebrews, tells us that “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Hebrews 4:14-16). St. Paul admonishes the Hebrews and us not to let ourselves get bogged down in our weakness. Instead, let us turn to Christ for strength and rely upon his mercy and grace. Wherever we are, Christ has already been. On this Good Friday, whether we find ourselves dealing with the throes of a passionate toddler tantrum, counseling an angsty teen, or enjoying a quiet moment to contemplate the awesomeness of Good Friday, we can remember our woundedness and give it over to Christ who heals us.
Let us together pray with the psalmist: “In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice, rescue me. Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God” (Psalms 31:1;5).
Forty years ago, my husband and I started a new tradition on Good Friday. Rather than bring four toddlers to the service, where parishioners were trying to stay focused and reverent, we tried a service in our home church – an idea I had learned from a friend. I set up a large plate with stones and added fourteen mini votive candles and a small crucifix. I lit the candles, and we gathered the children. My husband and I took turns reading the Stations of the Cross. After each station, we let one child at a time put out a candle with a candle snuffer. As the light in the room grew increasingly dim, my children experienced viscerally some sense of what we commemorated that day, at least at some level. As we added to our numbers and children grew older, they also took turns reading. Today it is just my husband and myself, but we carry on the tradition. If any grandchildren are in town, they join us. Sometimes we have also gone to services at the church, but this little tradition seems to have staying power with all of the family.
Thank you for sharing this beautiful tradition, Ruth! Light and darkness really are so powerful for kids… And for us too 🙂 I enjoyed a little service at home today with four small kiddos…the bigger boys took it upon themselves to process in with the crucifix and the toddlers loved kissing the crucifix. It was very touching!