Any musician will tell you that the rests, the pauses in music are as important in a piece as the notes themselves. Today is a rare time, maybe the only time, that the liturgical instructions tell the homilist to be brief. It is no doubt practical; we have a long Passion reading, the veneration of the Cross, the queue for communion. But the instruction is actually very theological. The preacher, when he does his work right, shares the vocation of the Baptist. He is but a voice in the wilderness, crying out to prepare the way. He only points to the One who comes. The one he points to, is the Word of God. He is simply a friend of the bridegroom; not the light, only a witness to the light. Today, as the forces of our own sin and wickedness triumph over the sinless one, as darkness seemingly extinguishes the Light of the world, as the noise we are immersed in drowns out the music of heaven, the voice remains without a Word to deliver. It is right that he be brief, when the whole of heaven falls silent. We have to give space for the rest in music.
But to know that it is a rest and not a complete stop is in itself hope. We are not without hope as Christ is risen at the right hand of the Father. In his going down to the grave, submitting to the horrors that we served him, he took the worst that we could do and transformed it by his light. He took the violence in the murkiest depths of our hearts and absorbed it into the divine Love, giving us forgiveness. The meaningless noise of this world, was, as it were invaded by the symphony of heaven, bringing something beautiful and new into existence. There is now no place, however dark which is not in some way already touched by Christ’s light. As one theologian put it, because of Christ, the world has become,
“…as though a room were filled with music, though one can have no sure knowledge of its source. There is in the world, as it were, a charged field of love and meaning; here and there it reaches a notable intensity; but it is ever unobtrusive, hidden, inviting each of us to join. And join we must if we are to perceive it, for our perceiving is through our own loving.” (Bernard Lonergan, Method)
It is because of this that we can come forward and venerate the Cross. If Christ had not triumphed over these horrors, to kiss the instrument of his torture would be a very twisted form of displaying love. But because of Christ’s love, the worst of man has become in itself a source of love and life. The worst of the world can be transformed into something beautiful by the Cross of Christ. And this gives us hope. The things we suffer will not succeed in destroying us, but themselves can become something beautiful in union with the Cross.
As we kneel before the Cross, we give thanks from our hearts, for Jesus’ willing death for us. In doing so, we venerate our own cross. What we do these three days is not drama or some re-enactment of Christ’s Passover. We participate, liturgically. In the space of these three days, we bring our crosses to union with the Cross of Christ. These are the things that destroy us. That one thing we wish was not there in our life, that event we wish had never happened; that person, that injustice, whatever it may be. Maybe it is small, maybe it is too much to handle. But today we know, whatever we face, it is not a place which is separated from the love and the power of Christ Jesus. On the first Good Friday, the fledgling Church had already failed, as all the apostles ran away. No one believed that Christ would rise from the dead. Except for Mary. In her hope, in her faith, the Church lived. She remains with us, even today, the last gift of the crucified Christ. She remains, as your mother and mine in your struggle with your cross. Hold on to her hope as your own hope fails. In her, we are united and triumph with Jesus over our own cross. Through her heart, the world will be transformed by the power of His love.