06 April 2007

Good Friday

Today we remember the Crucifixion of the Christ. While Palm Sunday and the Passover are marked with celebration, the atmosphere of Good Friday is much darker. Many churches tonight will hold Tenebrae services during which the sanctuary lights will slowly be extinguished. The paraments will be stripped or exchanged for simple black cloth.

It is today that we remember the death of our Passover Lamb. Exodus tells us that this Lamb was to be without blemish and that His bones were not to be broken. It is through the Lamb's blood that Death does not come to us. This Sacrifice is in celebration of God's deliverance and of salvation.

When he was hung on the Cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22. As he began by saying, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", the events of the Psalm were carried out around him.
"My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth." - "I have thirst."
"A band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet."
"They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing."

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that, "You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed," (52:3). In the next chapter, we are told "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all," (53:5-7).

Though the sorrow of the Cross is in the death of the Christ, it also comes bringing the glory of salvation. The sorrow of the Cross is not long lived, for the tomb will be empty on Sunday morning. The salvation, however, is eternal.

Music and Holy Week

Last year, I went to a music-based Tenebrae service at Church of the Resurrection UMC in Kansas City. This year, after the Maundy Thursday service at Athens First UMC, I went to the UGA music school's performance of G. Mahler's Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection"), a powerful piece of work from the turn of the Twentieth Century, which tells of a man thinking about life at a friend's funeral. The conclusion, the fifth movement, ends with the man witnessing the Resurrection and the glory and love of God.

During this performance, I thought about music. Though not very skilled at making it, I certainly do enjoy it and am often moved by it. From hymns to old slave spirituals, a well-written song can change your outlook on an entire day. Beethoven's Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, Howard Shore's music for the Lord of the Rings, and even modern bands such as UnderOath and mewithoutYou all have the ability to change everything in the span of one line.

The best scene in the movie The Shawshank Redemption is when Andy (Tim Robbins) plays an opera album over the prison's loud speakers. Red (Morgan Freeman) narrates that he still doesn't know what "that lady" was singing about and doesn't want to know. He likes to think that it is something so poetic that talking about it just won't express it.

It must be no coincidence, then, that some of the best religious pieces deal with the Crucifixion. Songs like "Where You There" serve when normal words do not do justice to the sorrow, pain, beauty, and love of the Cross.

Rock on.