Holy is the Name I know

Good Friday, April 6, 2012 - Christ Church (Parish) Church - Fredericton, New Brunswick


The Reverend Anthony Kwaw, Rector of Fredericton

The Reverend Canon Jim Irvine, Guest Homilist


« We approach the Cross


Christ Church (Parish) Church, FrederictonPilgrimage is an infrequent part of our lives.  Possibly the only remaining walk of faith is the Good Friday Watch by the Cross.  And few take the journey.  Hosannas of Palm Sunday have gone silent and they have not yet been replaced with Alleluias.  This is a sombre walk.  And we have met up with each other to take the walk together.

For five decades this holy space has welcomed pilgrims and given them shelter from a raw spring day.  Priests and choristers have provided a thoughtful backdrop for men and women to sit and reflect on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross.  Today you may be embarking on your first walk of faith beyond the city walls of the Holy City.  Some, I know, have been here each year as Lent and Holy Week come to an end with the Passion of Our Lord on the Cross.

Whether this is your first visit, or you have taken this path before, you have a sense of what to expect and the familiar texts of Scripture, while never changing, are known to you.  And they draw you time and again.

This evening is the beginning of Passover and the Sabbath.  We are constrained by time as the afternoon passes.   While we gather confident in what will be reviewed in our hearing, we are eager to discover how the remembrance of Jesus’ words may touch us in our hearing.

Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem with countless other pilgrims at the beginning of the week.  The streets of the city began to strain as the numbers increased.  Parthians, Medes, Elamites; inhabitants of Mesopotamia, of Judaea and Cappadocia, of Pontus and Asia, of Phrygia and Pamphilia, of Egypt and the districts Libya around Cyrene; visitors of Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretan and Arabs – gathered to keep the Lord’s Passover.  And where the devout gather, so gather rascals, thieves, rapists and murderers – to exploit the faithful cloaked by the anonymity of the crowd.  The streets would have been a polyglot of Hebrew and Aramaic, of Latin and Greek, and the countless other languages that characterize a multicultural city. 

And as with the pilgrims, excitedly crowding the bazaars and markets, busily negotiating their terms for the Passover Lambs at the Temple Mount, so the felons were kept in check by the Roman occupation that showed no quarter when arrests took place.  Thieves and pick pockets, con artists and thugs were summarily charged and sentenced.  And the sentence most effectively was death.

While on the Temple Mount piety was the tone of exchanges between Pilgrim and Levite, on Moriah – the Mount climbed by Abraham and Isaac, the Mount outside the City walls, the Mount where now a polyglot of blasphemies, vulgarities and tauntings ascended to the vaults of heaven.

As countless men, Jews all, hung from crosses, Roman Officers and Centuries shouted commands and abuse while felons writhed in agony and punctuated shrieks of unimaginable pain with cursings.   It was a dreadful place and the cosmopolitan make up of the assembly only served to demonstrate the condition of man.

And Jesus was in the midst of it.

The bleating of the Pascal Lambs in the Temple had an antiphonal response deserving of redemption across the valley.

And it is here that the traditional words of Jesus are framed and it is here that the sequence of Jesus’ dying hours are set.  The Evangelists have provided us with what we have and we are indebted to them for their varying accounts.  While differing on what might be attributed to Jesus, they help us hear what is on his lips amid the din and the chaos of the Day.  Had we been there we may not have been witnesses to any of these phrases.  The jostling of the Roman Centuries would have intimidated us; the cursings of the agonized felons would have frightened us.  We would have fled the scene, had we visited it at all.

But this is the point that I want to make as we begin our pilgrimage here in the Parish Church this afternoon: the remembrance of Jesus’ words is akin to the remembrance of the Lord’s Passover and as the remembrance we make when we gather to Break Bread and Share a Cup.  Our remembrance is not an incidental recollection of seven phrases that we seem to know by heart.  Our remembrance of them is an effective hearing of words that may never even have been spoken.  These are words and phrases needed to be heard then – as now – and when we hear them each time the reality and efficacy of the Passion is operative for us in ways that we perhaps do not full understand.  That we appreciate their power is born witness to by our being here, ready to hear again, as for the first time, words we need Jesus’ to have said. 

The words are spoken in every generation.  I have heard them many times already; and you have as well.  Today provides a context for our hearing but Good Friday does not limit the occasions or the necessity of our hearing these words and phrases at other times in our lives.  As at Pentecost fifty days hence, today we hear Jesus telling us – each in our own tongue – the great things that God is doing.

Who can tell how many crosses…

still to come, or long ago…

Crucify the King of Heaven…

Holy is the Name I know.


« Forgive them

« You will be with me

« Behold

« Why?

« I thirst

« Finished!

« Into your hands


« Every Star Shall Sing a Carol



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