Saturday, April 11, 2009

Noticing the Silence

I absolutely love with the Holy Week liturgies.  After weeks of preparation, we begin the solemn remembrance of Christ's passion, death and resurrection.  This year I especially noticed the things that we don't do in the liturgies.

On Holy Thursday, we don't have a final blessing and dismissal.  On Good Friday, we don't have an opening rite like we normally do, nor do we have the final blessing and dismissal.  It's huge.  Our prayers, our liturgies, are open ended on these days, because our watching and our waiting is not contained into the several hours at the liturgy.  Our entire attitude is to be one of watching and waiting and praying with Jesus for these days, starting on Holy Thursday night.  That night, as Mass ends, we are invited to stay and pray, like the disciples at the garden of Gethsemane.  

Then there is Good Friday.  As I said, there is no opening prayer, we simply continue where we left off the night before.  I was touched this year as the priest and the deacon came forward and prostrated themselves in reverence, in a heartfelt expression of humility and worship before God, Who died for us that day 2000 years ago.  In the Good Friday liturgy, there are two other very notable silences.  One is in the Gospel (John 18-19), where Jesus says very little.  The words that He does say are profound, but He often answers with silence throughout His trial.  Like the lamb led to slaughter, He opens not His mouth.  Of all His teaching in the Bible, His most profound lesson is the one that He teaches in silence, by His suffering and death.

The other silence is the lack of the liturgy of the Eucharist.  Everyday on altars throughout the entire world, the Eucharist is offered.  Except on Good Friday.  That day we have silence.  Emptiness, even though there is still Holy Communion.  There should be silence and emptiness.  How else can you express this remembrance of the day that Jesus died?  The lack of Mass is jarring when you are used to it.

There was no formal dismissal again.  Because we watch and we wait some more.  Still solemn, as Jesus' body lies in the cold, dark tomb.  Still a little shell-shocked if we have really thought about the violence of Jesus' death, and the horrible nature of sin that it required such a gruesome sacrifice.  But today there is also the slow building of great anticipation. Liturgies of solemn silences and quiet reflection will give way to liturgies of great rejoicing.  Because Good Friday is not the end.

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