Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life: Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Good Friday liturgy from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer includes a rubric which states, “If desired, a wooden cross may now be brought into the church and placed in the sight of the people.” The church, which has been stripped of all images and symbols which “picture” our faith during the Maundy Thursday liturgy, now is filled with a large wooden cross. This is the instrument of death.
What happens next cannot really be described with words. Though it is the instrument of death, the gathering does not run away in horror. They do not revile it or blame the cross for the death of Jesus. Rather, the people draw close to the cross, which becomes an instrument of devotion.
Some people kneel near it, touching the cross. Before departing, many will also kiss the cross. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. At the cross, the kiss we place upon the cross is not out of betrayal. It is a kiss of thanksgiving. It is a prayerful, embodied marking of the place where Jesus was willing to go in order to reconcile all creation to God.
At the veneration of the cross, there is also a time to recite or sing anthems. However, before the anthem begins, the room is filled with something else besides the cross. It is filled with silence.
Whenever I have knelt near a cross on Good Friday, I have heard it. It is a silence that holds all sound, all emotion, all time. It is a harrowing and holy no-thing. The place where Jesus cried out is now stilled. The silence, for me, is the place where shame and suffering begin to be transformed into life and glory and hope.
In the silence, nothing appears to be happening. However, in the silence, God is transforming everything.
The first sound of Resurrection is not of a tomb breaking. The first sound of Resurrection begins with no sound.
The hardest and holiest silence is found at the cross in the church. There is no need to run from that cross. The cross is now the place of deepest safety. Jesus has transformed it.
Through the cross, through the silence, we are transformed.