Celebration and sorrow

April 23, 2011 — Leave a comment

If I were a member of a monastic order, I’d be coming to the end of the Great Silence, the period between Maundy Thursday [or Passover] and the start of the Easter Vigil that is held in the wee hours of the night.

But I’m not, especially not this year. Obviously the Great Silence is not something one attempts with two boys, ages 4 and almost 2. It’s more like the Great Chaos– a happy chaos but not a silent chaos.

Even without the visit of C, S and Jeff though, life in this country plows through Holy Week without a pause. As it happened, I was invited to the wedding of Z’s son in the old city, on Good Friday afternoon.

“Come at 3,” Z said. “I’ve told people to come at 2 but they won’t come before 3.” I nodded, thankful for her understanding. It was actually 4 by the time I arrived with a few friends, but we were still some of the first ones there, and no one had yet changed into their fancy clothes. We waited and chatted. More women came [the men were celebrating later that night]. We ate.

We moved downstairs to wait for the bride. We waited, and waited some more. Whenever we asked when the bride was coming, the answer was ‘soon, soon.’


At last we heard that the bride was coming and we went out to welcome her. Some joined the procession.

Only later did I have a chance to reflect that these narrow lanes might have been like the ones Jesus carried his cross through on the way to be crucified. I’m sure a crowd gathered out of curiosity and followed along. Others peeked out of windows and watched the procession pass by before going back inside and resuming whatever they had been doing.


By now, it was after 6 and the Good Friday service was going to begin on the other side of the city at 7. But it was impossible to slip away and I gave up hope of getting to the service on time. There were pictures to be taken, dancing to be done. I escaped to the second story where the music was very loud but at least not EXTREMELY loud like it was on the ground floor. Finally, I was able to make my apologies for my early departure and leave.

I arrived 45 minutes late at the Good Friday service, in the middle of a time of silence. I had considered just going home rather than coming so late, but I thought even 15 minutes of quiet reflection would be good and I was right. I listened to the account of the crucifixion being read. I sang hymns that spoke of Jesus’ sacrifice.

“The wonder of your cross shall be our meditation
To gather in that shadow when the sun went down
To weep with those who thought that you were leaving,
You were leaving, Jesus
The humble King who never wore an earthly crown.” [Robin Mark]

Soon, the cross was brought to the front of the church and people came forward and nailed a piece of paper with their name onto it.


Gradually the bare cross became covered, until it was shrouded in white.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

He said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19 :30

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