This is a reflection I wrote last week for the Good Friday Project that St. James Episcopal Church presented on April 19, 2019. It’s an annual program they present, a variety of artists from their community, and from other churches in the area, offer pieces of music, poetry, dance, and more, in a contemplative setting.
Part I: Ecce homo “Behold the man”
“It is finished.”
They long for the final
exhalation, these lips that still
pucker at the tang of sour wine;
Arid gust swirls a faint musky–sweet po
scent upward from the Mary who
kneels at the foot of my cross.
Ah, I recall the rough silk of her
hair on my feet. Nard for burial
while I breathed and lived. Her gesture
was for me; she graced my death,
where Peter and the others could not.
There, my mother and my beloved disciple;
no man can sunder such love.
I focus on their loved faces and my pain
Ecce homo, Pilate commanded.
Demanded the city look and see.
He did not ask of me, ecce populus;
no matter, all is Rome’s.
Ah, but I love them nonetheless.
They know not how scorn
echoes down the ages.
Father, I will bear the agony
that in the garden began.
Part II: Ecce tibi “Behold oneself”
Boston in spring 2007. Our heroine, a grad student presenting at a national conference. Pop Culture—easy to get into, true–exciting, nonetheless. Her paper all about quest literature. The lesson: there’s no one in Avalon to save us; we must save ourselves. Medieval studies sessions catch her attention. The grail’s in Boston, she learns—alive and well in the public library. So, on that Friday in glorious spring, she’s skipping out to quest and finds Edwin Abbott’s eerie paintings in the library’s reading room. Perceval’s gaze still haunts her dreams, and the Holy Grail, that sacred cup, is unveiled in sacred, public space. Behold! What a joyous day with still time to quest. Out into the square she steps. Across the way, a well-aged church beckons her; come. No hesitation, off she goes, such pride in all she’s accomplished. “You can’t take pictures,” she’s told at the door, “but please come in and be seated in silence.” The usher hands her a bulletin. It’s not until she’s seated and seen the quote straight back on the wall of the nave–He who does not love does not know God, for God is love—does she see the words on the top of the page: Good Friday—come in and pray. Our heroine weeps with sudden understanding: salvation and God have been present all along. She’s just finally been opened to God’s call.
Part III: Ecce ipsi “Behold ourselves”
Have you heard the prophet C. S. Lewis’ words?
“No man can be an exile if he remembers that all the world is one city.”
Part IV: Ecce familia
Today, we stand outside of time and watch and pray.
Behold thy family, graciously, O Lord.
Love again begins.
Credits: The C. S. Lewis quote is from Till We Have Faces. The featured image is What Our Lord Saw From the Cross, by James Tissot, painted between 1886 and 1894.