I Will Sing As I Journey

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Christ Church (Parish) Church, Fredericton


Canon Jim Irvine

Three Hour Watch By The Cross · Good Friday · April 2, 2010

Christ Church (Parish) Church, Fredericton. New Brunswick


May the earth and the sea and the sky join my song.
Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey. 

Woman, here is your son! ... Here is your mother!



Mary would have averted her eyes, perhaps finding shelter in the folds of John’s tallit.  The wind, blowing eddies of dust on the heights of Golgotha seemed incessant and loose garments and soldiers capes whipped.  Eyelids closing in agony assured that the darkness continued.  Clouds overhead brought another darkness, chilling the air.  Men struggled to find some respite from the pain that assaulted their bodies and pressed upon their minds.  While some continued to cry out into the darkness in defiance, others had begun to collapse under their own weight.  Voices began to fail.

Jesus was lost among the throng, and like those near him in this chilling afternoon, his strength was waning.  All creation was sharing in the labour pains of this dawning era.  The earth cried out as the blood of Jesus – and others – fell to the ground and the earth absorbed life as it ebbed.  Not since Abel had the earth cried so loud. 

To the West the Mediterranean resonated with all creation as redemption incrementally advanced outside the Walled City.  Waves clapped and fishes cleared the water and the sky overhead joined their song. But on Golgotha nothing seemed out of place.  Nothing extraordinary was unfolding.  Men were dying.  The efficiencies of the Empire were not in jeopardy.

In this terrifying hour Jesus catches the visage of his Mother and with her, John.  Their fear cannot be contained, hidden.  They stood as one, and Jesus gathered the strength to speak.  John records his words.  Others failed to hear them. “Behold you son,” he says.  “Behold your mother.” 

Jesus extends compassion by ensuring the relationship that will remind both mother and son of him.  Their relationship is nothing apart from him.  Neither one is anything apart from him, and now apart from each other – a part of each other. 

What had been a close association, each bearing up the other in their grief, has now attained the intimacy of relationship.  And in that they were indivisible and supported.

Fifteen years ago I visited a large nursing home in Saint John.  The purpose of my visit was to take the Sacrament to a parishioner who was a resident in the institution.  Because of her diminished capacity, Norma was restrained in her bed.  And naturally the terror of the restraints aggravated her.  She found the bands about her wrists upsetting and she spent hour after hour confused and upset.

My custom was to take her sister with me when I visited.  The two spinster sisters had been inseparable for their seven decades.  They comforted each other.

I greeted Norma, clasping her hand and telling her that I had brought Connie with me and that the three of us were going to have Communion.  Norma seemed pleased – that I had brought Connie with me, and that I had brought the Communion as well.  I cleared a space on the bedside table and placed the Cross and Candlesticks, the Chalice and Paten.

Norma was calm as I proceeded through the brief liturgy at the bedside, and she joined her thin voice with her sister Connie’s voice in the familiar prayers they had said together Sunday by Sunday hundreds and hundreds of times. 

I placed the Host on one sister’s palm and then the other.  I gently supported Norma’s head with my hand as I guided the Chalice to her lips.  Lowering her head to her pillow, she gently closed her eyes, savouring the Bread of Heaven, the Cup of Salvation.

When all three of us had communicated, I placed the Cross and Candlesticks in my Communion Box, along with the Chalice and Patten.  I closed the Box, clasped Norma’s hand and said my good bye.  I then went to the door.  Turning and looking back toward the bed I was privileged to share a familial moment…

Connie approached Norma’s bedside.  Standing on her toes, the diminutive sister reached over the rail of the hospital bed.  She was able to cradle Norma’s head, careful not to disturb her hair.  She drew herself as close as she could to her sister and carefully, lovingly kissed Norma on her forehead.  Gently resting Norma on her pillow and straightening her nightie, she whispered, “Good-bye.”

“Behold your sister.”  I saw those words of relationship expressed… and Jesus’ comfort and consolation echoed again, as it has so many times since first it was thought he uttered such sweet compassion.

May the earth and the sea and the sky join my song.

Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I journey.


My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?