Modesty Woven by Prayer

Meditations on Jesus Last Words from the Cross

Canon Jim Irvine

Good Friday, April 10, 2009 - Noon - 3:00 p.m.

Christ Church (Parish) Church - Fredericton, New Brunswick





Father, forgive them for
they know not what they are doing.

Luke 23: 33-34


Truly I tell you, today you
will be with me in Paradise.

Luke 23: 39-43


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

John: 19: 26-27


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

Mark: 15: 33-34 and Matthew: 27: 46


I am thirsty.

John: 19: 28-29


It is finished.

John: 19: 30


Father, into your hands
I commend my spirit.

Luke 23:  44-46




Modesty Woven by Prayer

















































































 Now I lay me down to sleep;
I pray the Spirit
my soul to keep... and
if I die still
halfway there;
I pray the Spirit
my soul to care.








Marc Chagall

The White Crucifixion (detail)




I pray the Spirit my soul to care.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. 

Luke 23 44-46




Holy God,

holy and mighty,

holy immortal one,

have mercy upon us.


Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Spirit my soul to keep…

and if I die still halfway there

I pray the Spirit my soul to care.



The crowds, such as there were, and those that kept their distance thinned out.  Hunger and thirst overcame some.  Indifference to a commonplace event had others shrug their shoulders and wander off.  Nothing spectacular was witnessed here, they thought.  No angels appeared and Jesus remained upon the cross.  Others nearby had expired.  The air was quieter now.  Cries were stilled, one by one.  Silhouettes stood against a steel sky and pierced the skyline.

Here and there Guards tended to their final duties.  They would be the last to leave.

At the cross bearing the superscription, Jesus no longer had the strength to support himself and his weight would hasten his last breath as remaining sands rush through an hour glass.

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

Throughout the day prayers provided a modesty that was not afforded by Caesar.  The images flashing across the landscape were recorded: some by Matthew, other by John.  Luke had penned his thoughts and so had Mark.  All of them understood that Jesus had said something into the darkness.  None of them agreed on what he may have said. 

Perhaps the chronology of the final words is hinted at by the content of the prayer.  John and Luke might have disputed who was right in recording Jesus final prayer.  But to argue the supremacy of one witness over another is surely to miss the point.  In this Gospel record we are privileged to see Jesus as the evangelists saw him, and we have the advantage of hearing Jesus as they confidently recorded what they would have heard the Messiah say if he were to say anything.

They capture his character and see his ministry reflected in the prayers that are a foil to all that he had said and done.  What’s more, they remind us that as Jesus recognized his mission – his apostolate – in the words of Isaiah, he tells us that we are sent as he was sent.  We are to do what he modeled for us throughout the Gospels.

In the midst of our lives, broken and fraught with profound suffering by times, we are reminded that the cross functions not as an answer to atrocity, but as a question, protest and critique of the assumptions we may have made about the lives shared with us.

On the cross we find the Covenant that was promised and that Jesus cut for us.  As deliverance was initialed by the Pascal lambs’ blood on door posts and lintels in Egypt, so a cup of Salvation proffers a promise of forgiveness.  We are reclaimed and made new – not because we rejoice as voyeurs of Jesus death, but because by the blood of the Lamb of God a promise has been made that we may be made whole.  Jesus does not die for our sins.  He dies for our forgiveness!

We claim the depth of that redemptive love when we return on Easter and approach the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation.  This Day empowers the hope of our Easter and draws us inexorably to the banquet Table of the Messiah.

But for now, I invite you to stand.

In the Hebrew tradition, the Mourner’s Kaddish is said at the anniversary of the death. It is a prayer of praise to God, the Holy One… Jesus invited us to address Him as Abba, Father.

Magnified and sanctified
may His great Name be
in the world that He created
as He wills
and may His kingdom come
in your lives and in your days
and in the lives of all the house of Israel
swiftly and soon,
and say all… amen!

May His great Name be blesséd
always and forever!

and praised
and glorified
and raised
and exalted
and honoured
and uplifted
and lauded,
as the Name of the Holy One
(He is blesséd!)
above all blessings
and hymns and praises and consolations
that are uttered in the world,
and say all… amen!

May a great peace from heaven –

and life! –
be upon us and you all Israel
and say all… amen!

May He who makes peace in His high places
make peace upon us and upon all Israel
and say all… amen!

 And in the waning hours of the late afternoon of the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan, Jesus entered into his Sabbath’s Rest.



Midi: Schindlers List

Background: Tallith


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