You alone give us life, give us peace, give us love.
Lord Jesus, of you I will sing as I journey.
Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.
procession to Golgotha has many depictions. Father Seiger Köder
in a tableau entitled Unison, pictures Jesus struggling
under the weight of his cross beam, and with him on either side,
others bearing the weight of their cross beams. These men were
on the final leg of a journey that had begun at various corners
of the Empire. Unsavoury characters, thieves and murderers,
terrorists and highwaymen joined ranks and the Palestinian dust
under their feet rose in the air as they advanced. Jesus was
numbered among them. Jesus’ place was not simply found in that
Day or on that Hill but among those men, the refuse of society.
In Unison with them, he carried the weight of the price
of life and peace and love.
Placed on the
cross beam, Jesus’ arms were pinned to the rough wood. Others’
cries of pain drown out all pleas for mercy and vain claims of
innocence. Vile blasphemies fill the air from the lips of men
sentenced to death as well as the Roman soldiers. The God of
Israel and the gods of Rome are invoked in Hebrew and Aramaic
In the very
midst of that cacophony I am sure was heard, “Father, forgive
them for they know not what they are doing.” In the confusion
it was quickly lost. The soldier wielding the hammer may have
caught it. Another holding the iron spike may have heard it.
Perhaps, as a soldier’s ear came close to Jesus’ lips – as they
hoisted the cross beam to the post anchored in the hard ground
of Golgotha – the words were caught.
ago, I had the privilege of assisting Archdeacon Harry Quinn in
the Chaplaincy at Ridgewood Veterans’ Wing in South Bay – on the
West Side of Saint John. One week a month I would cover for
him and extend pastoral care to the men who served in the Great
Wars of the last century. Residents came to live at the
Veterans’ Wing when they could no longer make it on their own.
Some suffered from physical disability as amputees while others
were less obvious in their disability. All were scared.
evenings, after supper, a Service was held in the Craft Room and
five or six ladies of the Church of the Good Shepherd provided a
choir. They had faithfully done so for nearly four decades.
Having begun as young women, they knew the residents well, and
Communion was celebrated on alternating Tuesdays and when it was
the attendance at the Service was always higher. As Anglican
priests, Harry and I presided with the Book of Common Prayer.
Residents filled the Craft Room. The staff would bring the
wheel chair residents in and placed them around the walls of the
room. There were some who could not be brought to the Service.
In those cases we would take the Sacrament to the residents in
their rooms. After communicating those in the Craft Room, a
chorister would join me and carry the Chalice as we made a tour
of the rooms. The choir and residents continued to sing until
In the dusk
of an early April evening I remember entering Fred’s room. Fred
was in his late nineties and a faithful Baptist who never missed
the evening Service – and never missed making his Communion. I
had not taken Communion to Fred in his room before. It was out
of character for Fred to be absent in the Craft Room. Perhaps
Fred was ill.
As I entered
his room Fred was lying on his side, facing the window by his
bed. A thin blanket – too short for his height – covered him
from his ankles to his shoulder. His left hand, fingers long
and bony, held the edge of the blanket at his shoulder and as I
walked around the end of his bed I saw that he was gazing out
the window into the early spring sky of evening.
him, and he recognized me and called me by name without moving
on his bed. “I have brought you Communion, Fred,” I said,
leaning over him with my left hand on his shoulder and speaking
directly into his ear.
take it tonight… or ever again,” Fred replied. “My family was
in earlier today. They told me that they would not come to
visit me again if I were to take Communion from you.” A tear
escaped an eye and ran down to his pillow that was already
looked at me and then past me into the impenetrable sky that
Jesus looked into, I am sure I heard familiar words, “Father,
forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
I nodded my
head in understanding. Transferring the Paten to the night
table I knelt and asked if I could then give him a blessing.
Fred nodded in silence and closed his eyes as I reached out my
arm and placed my hand on his head and blessed him.
alone give us life give us peace, give us love.
of you I will sing as I journey.
Truly I tell you, today
you will be with me in Paradise.