On this unusual Good Friday, in an unusual Holy Week, in an unusual year, I'm reviving a post I wrote ten years ago.

Is there anything worse than excruciating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual torture and death?

Maybe, just maybe, it would be watching your child endure that.

It takes nothing from the sufferings of Christ commemorated this Holy Week to pause and consider a couple of other important persons in the drama.

I find the following hymn to be one of the most powerful and moving of the season. For obvious reasons, it is usually sung on Palm Sunday, but the verses reach all the way through to Easter. [Cue WINCHESTER NEW]

Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
Hark! all the tribes hosanna cry;
Thy humble beast pursues his road
With palms and scatter'd garments strowed.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
O'er captive death and conquer'd sin.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
The wingèd squadrons of the sky
Look down with sad and wond'ring eyes
To see th'approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
The Father on his sapphire throne
Awaits his own anointed Son.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty!
In lowly pomp ride on to die;
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God, thy pow'r, and reign!

"The Father on his sapphire throne awaits his own anointed Son." For millennia, good fathers have encouraged, led, or forced their children into suffering, from primitive coming-of-age rites to chemotherapy. Even when they know it is for the best, and that all will be well in the end, the terrible suffering of the fathers is imaginable only by someone who has been in that position himself.

And mothers?

The Protestant Church doesn't talk much about Mary. The ostensible reason is to avoid what they see as the idolatry of the Catholic Church, though given the adoration heaped upon male saints and church notables by many Protestants, I'm inclined to suspect a little sexism, too. In any case, Mary is generally ignored, except for a little bit around Christmas, where she is unavoidable. 

On Wednesday I attended, for the second time in my life, a Stations of the Cross service. Besides being a very moving service as a whole, it brought my attention to the agony of Mary. Did she recall then the prophetic word of Simeon, "a sword shall pierce through your own soul also"? Did she find the image of being impaled by a sword far too mild to do justice to the searing, tearing torture of watching her firstborn son wrongly convicted, whipped, beaten, mocked, crucified, in an agony of pain and thirst, and finally abandoned to death? Did she find a tiny bit of comfort in the thought that death had at least ended the ordeal? Did she cling to the hope of what she knew in her heart about her most unusual son, that even then the story was not over? Whatever she may have believed, she could not have had the Father's knowledge, and even if she had, would that have penetrated the blinding agony of the moment?

In my head I know that the sufferings of Christ, in taking on the sins of the world, were unimaginably greater than the physical pain of injustice and crucifixion, which, terrible as they are, were shared by many others in those days. But in my heart, it's the sufferings of God his Father and Mary his mother that hit home most strongly this Holy Week.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 10, 2020 at 4:05 pm | Edit
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