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
« Forgive them
« You will be with me
Tradition places Jesus’ encounter with his Mother and John at this place in the sequence of the Last Words heard from the Cross. While remaining true to the tradition, I am inclined to relocate the venue for the exchange. Jews abhorred the Gentile practice of public nudity and the gymnasium was avoided for that purpose. While the Imperial authority would want to exploit the moment of shame and humiliation, every effort was made to embarrass and the men crucified would not have benefitted from Rembrandt’s use of loin cloths on the large canvasses that hang in galleries throughout Christendom.
John would not have shamed his Lord and Master by standing before him while hanging on the cross. The moment would have been too painful. The disciple’s pain doubled as he felt the pain for himself at the exposure and again for having inflicted Jesus with his unwarranted gaze.
And I cannot imagine any woman who followed Jesus, let alone his blessed Mother placing herself close to his cross, in view of his nakedness or the nakedness of any of the other dying men. Imperial authority may have welcomed the opportunity but we are on the other side of the Bosporus and the sensibilities of the prevailing culture could not withstand the shame.
The transaction would have happened more likely as Jesus struggled to carry his cross-beam from Pilate’s Hall through the streets of the City to where crucifixions took place.
The visitors to the City for the Festival, naturally curious at seeing a parade of sorts, jammed the streets to catch a glimpse. The streets were already busy and pilgrims would have emptied into them from their night’s lodging. Some would make their way to the Temple Mount to arrange for their sacrifice. Families were preparing for the Passover. Other provisions required purchase and the market places were busy as buyers and sellers haggled over price.
Few recognized the Lamb of God, bleeding and wounded, being led through the street. This was neither the time for epiphany nor metaphor – that would come later. Jesus failed in every respect to be an acceptable sacrifice. Blemished, beaten and bloodied, he would have been discarded. An unworthy specimen like him could not be offered to God.
As Jesus is remembered in the Stations of the Cross as having spoken to the Women of Jerusalem, so, too, I can see a similar encounter with his Mother and John. They may have taken to an alley off the High Street, hidden in the pathways that join the streets as short cuts. Jesus, making every effort to balance his burden, may have wiped away matted hair and blood and sweat from his brow… he may have glanced up and in the look, saw a familiar face.
We cannot always hear Behold…
Sometimes Behold is in a look, a gesture but even then, something is heard. The penetrating gaze between a Son and his Mother, between a Master and his disciple… such a gaze gives expression when words cannot be carried over the raucous crowd. Above the polyglot frenzy of the pilgrims, the escorting Centuries and the others sentenced to die Jesus’ look cut through the din and Mary heard her son… A vigilant eye hopeful of catching sight explored the crowd and in a protected recess found the familiar gaze of a Mother… a friend.
Our lives are full of such moments and when we recall them, we begin to see how close Jesus’ experience has come to ours. The look that Peter saw the previous night, that too was a beholding and one that brought with it shame and guilt as the cock went silent after piercing the morning dawn. The look that Pilate saw during the trial, that as well was a beholding and one that brought doubt and abdication and a wash basin as Jesus was asked, What is Truth. The look that John the Baptist saw when, at the beginning of a journey that led to this dreadful place, Jesus stepped into the Jordan and cousin’s eyes met and the heavens were torn open and a voice was heard, This is my Son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.
Sometimes we fail to hear the note of pleasure, but invariably we hear Behold. As an abused child beholds a parent, as a friend beholds broken trust, as a spouse beholds a clenched fist, as a beggar beholds the indifferent haughtiness of advantage… these are all instances of our hearing Behold, and in their hearing, a deeper recognition of our mutuality of relationships.
In the very midst of our broken relationships we have the opportunity to discover the presence of Jesus – ensuring, restoring, healing.
Who can tell how many crosses…
still to come, or long ago…
Crucify the King of Heaven…
Holy is the Name I know.
« I thirst
« Into your hands
« Every Star Shall Sing a Carol
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