A service for Good Friday

Introduction to the Three Hours - Seven meditations with hymns, prayers and music.  

 

At the beginning of the Three Hours meditation we prepare ourselves to think about Christ on the Cross.  Usually we do this in twenty-minute sections separated by hymns, with a few people staying for the full three hours, and others coming and going during the hymns, and maybe remaining for forty minutes or an hour.  Please feel free to use this liturgy in the same way, or as you find most helpful. 

 

This year we read and sing and pray, not in Church but in our homes; not physically together, but one in the Spirit, trying to understand Christ’s Words from the Cross in these extraordinary days of anxious prayer during a world-wide virus pandemic.   We are exposed, as we consider our Lord’s words, in a way that we not only welcome, we actively seek; with a true desire for engagement with the act of Christ’s crucifixion, because it was and is linked to our very life. 

 

Please join me at the foot of the Cross this Good Friday.  Our meditation will be shorter than our usual three hours, but may be extended with moments of silence.  

 

John Mann (team rector)

 

****

 

Let us begin with a prayer:

 

Eternal God,

in the cross of Jesus

we see the cost of our sin

and the depth of your love:

in humble hope and fear

may we place at his feet

all that we have and all that we are,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

We listen to Simon playing Brahms’ Passiontide music  https://youtu.be/wZZpoAH984M

 

 

Luke 23: 33-34. The First Word from the Cross: And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”  (Luke 23: 34)

 

Having arrived at the place of The Skull, as it was known, there they crucified Jesus.  Saint Luke tells us of the women weeping and wailing, and of Simon of Cyrene upon whom the cross of Jesus was laid, probably for much of the uphill part of the way to this fearful place of execution.  The act of crucifixion is done, and the clothes of Jesus are shared by the soldiers, and in this moment Jesus utters the words that the Church has ever after kept in mind: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”. 

 

Forgiveness offered at this moment of execution; as Jesus died for love of us, and to save us from the death for which our wayward lives had prepared us.  Great love, but also the fulfilling of a willing place within the loving purposes of God.  There is a thread that we must trace to its source here.  Let us go back in the obvious place of last night – in Gethsemane – there Jesus accepted a cup - as he put it - in prayer to the Father.  Jesus indicated that this held a sense of commitment that could have been avoided, but at that moment he consciously took and drank from the cup of suffering.

 

So what bearing does this have on the prayer for forgiveness, that Jesus utters for the soldiers that have just nailed him to the cross?  It shows the underlying purpose of God, and what our Lord was releasing himself for, not just to some kind of stoic sacrifice.  Jesus prayed the prayer of forgiveness for, though the awfulness of his crucifixion was not in anyway diminished because of it, the purpose of his death was reflected in the very act of compassion towards these soldiers, who continued to abuse him.  This is not easy for us to understand without a good deal of pondering, for the need to forgive was part of our Lord’s very nature, and this he bids us imitate, and this we see today as we stand and behold the Cross. 

 

It may seem as though by describing this thought, that I am somehow dismissing the moment of actual crucifixion as a premeditated opportunity for our Lord to teach, albeit with his very abuse.  It seems to me that this is not the point here as presented by the Evangelists, who before the words spoken by Jesus place the attention on the soldiers and what they are doing rather than on the suffering mind of Christ. Love cannot be taken by force only willingly shared and here we have the perfect example, in this Word, at this moment.  We shall see others this afternoon.

 

First Hymn

 

There is a green hill far away -  access Simon’s accompaniment here:  https://youtu.be/BzHMLGN888M

 

1 There is a green hill far away,

without a city wall,

where the dear Lord was crucified,

who died to save us all.

 

2 We may not know, we cannot tell,

what pains he had to bear;

but we believe it was for us

he hung and suffered there.

 

3 He died that we might be forgiv'n,

he died to make us good,

that we might go at last to heav'n,

saved by his precious blood.

 

4 There was no other good enough

to pay the price of sin;

he only could unlock the gate

of heav'n, and let us in.

 

5 O dearly, dearly has he loved,

and we must love him too,

and trust in his redeeming blood,

and try his works to do.

 

 

Luke 23: 39-43.  The Second Word from the Cross: And he said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’

 

Of all the Words of our Lord’s from the Cross, this is the one that involves dialogue and carries with it a sense of something extraordinary happening between three men equally suffering and caught up in the abuse of the powerless by the powerful, whatever the context, reason or in fact judicial outcome of their supposed crimes.  There is then an almost surreal sense that something quite odd is occurring here.  Men who are fighting for breath and in the extremity of pain are observing their own condition and reflecting for good or ill upon that of the nature of one of them, namely Jesus.  

 

The thieves are taking different lines according to their attitude to their situation.  The first thief “railed at him”, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  This is extraordinary really.  It is aggressively challenging to Jesus, yet at the same time acknowledging his claim to be the Messiah.  Or, is it just mockery?  If it is, it seems an extraordinarily pointless piece of mockery.  Yet the other thief can make something of this.  He answers this challenge rather than let it sit.  He summons the strength to oppose the challenge to Christ’s authority.  Jesus himself, we may note has said nothing, and does say nothing to the impenitent thief. The rebuke of the impenitent criminal by the penitent criminal is direct: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong”.  

 

 Then come his words to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. This request has been said and sung by Christians down the ages, not just in liturgical celebrations, but in lives of individuals.  It has been used as a chanted response and crosses the denominational barriers, because it speaks from a human heart to the human heart, calling for hope even from the heart of hopelessness; seeking life in the very face of a tormented dying; clinging to a vision of paradise while glimpsing the hell of what all justice demands.  It is the archetypal cry for mercy.

 

Let us hear now the response of Jesus to the pleading words of the penitent, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.  Jesus replies: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

We don’t worry about what is unnecessary here; what time of the day Paradise will be open, or whether or not we may equate Paradise with heaven.  The answer to those questions may be interesting, but they will not further our life of devotion to Christ; grasping the gift of hope in a darkening world will.  The penitent thief could envisage a darkening world alright, he was facing an agonising death and was conscious of his deeply sinful ways.  Thus it was that Jesus was confirming a spirit of forgiveness and hope within him; and that is held out to us too.  And it is just as important, maybe even more so for us to see the one really important point that our Lord is imparting here.  Don’t get bogged down with the detail, that is not for Good Friday.  Jesus offers forgiveness to the soldiers and hope to the penitent thief.  These are simple ideas of a profoundly important nature for the Christian of any day.

 

 

Second hymn 

 

My Song is Love Unknown - https://youtu.be/URcLn3TumzQ

 

My song is love unknown,

My Saviour’s love to me;

Love to the loveless shown,

That they might lovely be.

O who am I,

That for my sake

My Lord should take

Frail flesh, and die?

 

He came from His blest throne

Salvation to bestow;

But men made strange, and none

The longed-for Christ would know:

But oh, my Friend,

My Friend indeed,

Who at my need

His life did spend.

 

Sometimes they strew His way,

And His sweet praises sing;

Resounding all the day

Hosannas to their King:

Then “Crucify!”

Is all their breath,

And for His death

They thirst and cry.

 

They rise and needs will have

My dear Lord made away;

A murderer they save,

The Prince of life they slay.

Yet cheerful He

To suffering goes,

That He His foes

From thence might free.

 

Here might I stay and sing,

No story so divine;

Never was love, dear King,

Never was grief like Thine.

This is my Friend,

In whose sweet praise

I all my days

Could gladly spend.

 

 

 

John 19: 26,27. The Third Word from the Cross: When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”

 

In Saint John’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus, our Lord utters this word very soon after he has been nailed to the cross; the soldiers have parted his few garments; for his tunic they cast lots.  Jesus is aware that his mother and John are beside him.  It is easy in one sense to imagine what they felt at this moment, but quite hard in another.  This was extreme trauma for them both; his mother and the disciple he specially loved.  He establishes a bond between them.  In thinking about this we trespass on the unimaginable and the inconsolable.  There is a sense in which the emotions here are too raw; too deep; too profound for the kind of thought that we may use to reduce the situation to some kind of rational explanation.  This is the difficulty we are faced with when we contemplate these few words; the most difficult, to my mind of the seven words of Christ to truly understand.  On the surface of things Jesus is giving the care of his mother to his best friend and the care of his best friend to his mother.  In that there is logic and a simple reason for speaking; beyond that we can speculate, but we cannot know; we can struggle to comprehend, but we will never completely hold the answer.

 

Is Jesus saying to these two people whom he loves so deeply: “I am offering you not just the consolation of each other, but a path to a deeper understanding of what love means.”  It is a binding, which goes beyond taking responsibility, or filling a great gulf of need, it is to do with maturing in the way of love, in the life of the spirit, in the path of discipleship.  “Woman, behold your son!”  “Behold your mother!”  You have started on the path of life; you are both dear to me beyond words, be to each other as I have been to you, such is the way of blessedness.

 

These first three words from the Cross are a word for others.  Jesus seems entirely unconcerned for himself or the ultimate effect of his death on the salvation of the world, the ultimate struggle of good and evil; the universality of love shown in time and eternity, at this moment early in the hours of crucifixion, the eyes of our Lord are turned to individual others: the soldiers, the thieves and those who loved him most closely.  Mary Magdalene was there too, according to Saint John, and she stayed - with some other women - for Saint Mark and Saint Matthew record that she is there towards the end with other women, also spoken of by Saint Luke.  But it is only John who records this word of unity for his mother and John.  He indeed opens to us the path of life and love by this word to them.

 

At this point we turn from the early moments of the crucifixion to some time later; from the moments of light and life for those looking on to the darkness of the cosmic striving, the crisis of our Lord’s approaching death; the inner turmoil of faith as the reconciler became the victim and the lover of the men and women of this world.   He, already the example of self-sacrifice and the reflection of the way and life of the divine, is torn in body and spirit in the eternal battle of good and evil.

 

Third Hymn

My God I love thee -  https://youtu.be/Ythd245FLeY

 

My God, I love thee; not because

I hope for heaven thereby,

nor yet because who love thee not

are lost eternally.

 

Thou, O Lord Jesus, thou didst me

upon the cross embrace;

for me didst bear the nails and spear,

and manifold disgrace,

 

and griefs and torments numberless,

and sweat of agony;

yea, death itself; and all for me

who was thine enemy.

 

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,

should I not love thee well,

not for the sake of winning heaven,

nor of escaping hell;

 

not from the hope of gaining aught,

not seeking a reward;

but as thyself hast loved me,

O ever loving Lord!

 

So would I love thee, dearest Lord,

and in thy praise will sing,

solely because thou art my God

and my most loving King.

 

 

Matthew 27: 45-46. The Fourth Word from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

According to Saint Matthew there were three hours of darkness before Jesus spoke these words.  This indicates that, without much doubt, there was a significant period of time between the first three of our Lord’s words from the Cross, that seem to have occurred right at the beginning and the last four, of which this is the first.  There is a change in tone too, and maybe that is only to be expected considering the length of time that Jesus has hung upon the Cross; the inevitable weakness that has resulted and the shortness of breath too.  It is reckoned that most people died through a collapse of the chest and an increasing struggle to breath.  By using the legs to push the body up, this situation was alleviated, but gradually it became too much, or the legs were broken to prevent the crucified man doing this and hence hastening the death by asphyxiation, so, physically, Jesus and the two thieves were entering this period of the execution. 

 

Jesus is no longer addressing another man or woman as he had done in his earlier words, now he is crying out to God, not in his own words, but in the words of a psalm; the opening words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It is a reasonable supposition to make that our Lord had the whole psalm in mind, or at least a significant part of it that relates to these opening words and possibly other Scriptures too.  He is crying out to his Father.

 

So what do we make of this? What is happening?  Is Jesus reciting the words to remind him of what lies ahead in the faithfulness and providence of God, though the experience of suffering is so great at this moment?  For the time being let us lay aside the whole psalm and think of the words that Jesus actually spoke, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  This is a terrible admission of desolation; of separation from the presence of God in his midst. To feel forsaken is an emotion that it is important that we try and assimilate at this moment of our three hour devotion; being abandoned is certainly the experience of millions of people in the world today. Maybe you can cast your mind to an incident in your own life when you felt abandoned, left alone, even by the closest members of you family or by your nearest friends.  Emptiness, forsakenness, abandonment and hopelessness are the inevitable consequences of such a path.  How can the Father leave the Son he loved, in whom he is ‘well pleased’ to this agony of complete desolation?

 

For some moments now we must summon our imagination to bear upon this crucial time for Jesus.  What must this have meant to him? To know separation of this nature from his Father, whether actual or incredibly real to his mind and heart, is without doubt beyond us, but we can at least appreciate that the full horror of what was happening to him, separate our minds from distractions and dwell on Jesus, three hours on the Cross and suffering; not just physically and mentally, but spiritually as these words reveal, he was on his own.  The weight of this separation was clearly taking its toll. 

 

Here in the unity of Christ’s suffering; through the very darkness of spiritual division, we are drawn to him, who for our sake, suffered not only the physical death of crucifixion, but also the mental torment of suffering alone, and the spiritual death of the absence of love.  If our faith can survive such a thing, then it is only through the fact that Jesus was the first to bear this suffering:  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

We listen to Simon playing Bach’s wonderful Passiontide Chorale Prelude “O Mensch Bewein dein Sunde Grosse” : https://youtu.be/FSUN2vAEV14

 

 

John 19: 28. The Fifth Word from the Cross – After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the Scripture), “I thirst”.

 

The spiritual separation of the last word we considered from the Cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” finds a parallel in the physical need of this fifth word.  Of course, we recognise the inevitability of thirst on the Cross, especially after some hours; we know too of the spiritual thirst that has already been revealed in these words.  Now we have two brief words that hold something of the physical suffering; in fact they are the only words that draw attention to the bodily condition of Jesus.  The portrayal of the Cross in all its terrible, bloody brokenness, is not something that any of the Evangelists concentrate on; John least of all.  Yet here we have it in his account of the Crucifixion this brief mention of the natural thirst of the man left hanging in the sun; with bleeding hands and feet; sweating in agony, this sign of his dying, slowly, painfully, is also a sign that there is little of him left to give.

 

Water does appear a great deal in Saint John’s Gospel, slightly mysteriously and with spiritual connotations.   Let us take the very first miracle for example: Jesus turning water into wine; not that long afterwards we encounter the incident of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.  Our Lord is drawing her more than once from the banal chatter about the water in the well to the reality of himself as the living water, from whom one may drink and live – and never thirst again.  This promise by Jesus to the woman makes it more than likely that when he is himself thirsting and remarking on it, his desire is for something quenching of the whole person, not just the body.  The crippled man, lying on his mat at the pool of Bethesda is freed from the superstition of the stirred waters of the pool, and shown the true life that is Christ’s to give.  Again water is used to open the eyes of the man born blind.  This man was sent by Jesus with eyes caked with mud made from the earth and saliva to wash in the pool of Siloam; he washed and could see.  Once more we see the power of Jesus, miraculously shown forth, whilst the washing of pure water is the key to the new life.

 

Consistently then, Jesus has spoken and acted in the Saint John’s Gospel as one who sees beyond the simple description of life and light, water and bread; seeing and not seeing, thirsting for the true water of life whilst drinking of the well of a spiritual past.  As in certain ways, as I suggested earlier, the third word from the Cross relates to the second; Jesus building a new relationship of love and unity in peace between his mother and John as he had between himself and the penitent thief, by his simple words: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  Gradually, we are seeing a pattern develop here in which the element of love which binds the penitent thief and Jesus together; is within the significance of the words of Jesus, “Woman, behold your son” “Behold your mother”.  Now, I suggest we may pair the cry of desolation, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, with this word of our consideration at the moment, “I thirst”.  Here we have the emptiness of the forsaken, expressed in desire; a thirsting for the water of life, not just the physical thirsting.  This appears to be to be consistent with the whole of Saint John’s Gospel, where life means eternal life and water is the stream of renewal in the flow of that eternal life.

 

Jesus said, “I thirst”, yes, and so do we, Lord come, quench that thirst in us and make us one with you, through the wounds and desolation of your own body and soul; shattered upon the Cross of Calvary.

 

Fourth Hymn

 

When I survey the wondrous Cross -  https://youtu.be/xCh6OjFVmNs

 

When I survey the wondrous cross

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

 

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ my God!

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to His blood.

 

See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down!

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

 

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

 

 

John 19: 30. The Sixth Word from the Cross. – When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 

The last two words of Jesus from the Cross form a pair in my mind, like the second and third and the fourth and fifth.  The way one accepts these last two words affects the way in which we grasp this moment of the course of the Crucifixion.  For me the climax is the moment when Jesus cries, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” That is the terrible time, and the crux of all that the Christian seeks to say, about the relationship of Christians between themselves and between each (individually or corporately) and Christ.  It is in the sense of dereliction – the soul in separation – not from its own will, but because it has been forced there, that the true unity is discovered.  It is the moment of the testing of faith, and consequently its strengthening too, and a moment to seek to embrace with the passionate love of one who is seeking the path of Christian service, of sacrifice, of compassion and self-giving.  “My God, my God why have you forsaken me”  is like a magnet to the soul whose very life is being drawn to the Saviour in his suffering; physically, mentally and spiritually.

 

But now, Jesus having received sour wine after his word, “I thirst” there is a change.  We shall hear in another little while from Saint Luke that after the hours of darkness, the Temple curtain is torn in two.  That moment and these words, “It is finished” convince me that the darkness is lifting from the soul of Jesus and we need to respond to that change. This word, “It is finished” is the cry of victory, rather than the cry of capitulation.  This is and important, for me vital, part of this meditation on the Cross.  For what is the darkness of the Cross, but the threat of evil and its intent with the bearing of sin upon the Son of God?  It is reflected in a darkened sky; but more really present in the heart of Jesus; yet, as Gethsemane passed with its intense battle for the right way ahead, so is Calvary passing with its intense battle between good and evil.  Both are conquered by the power of love, that is of the very nature of God.  It is God’s will that Jesus hung in sacrificial love for the world upon the Cross of Calvary, but he was not the cause of it; that responsibility lies in the hearts and minds of human beings, who for the striving for what they desired have always managed to go wrong, and still do.

 

The understanding of what Jesus is saying here must be coloured by how we read other parts of the Passion narrative; only by considering the broader picture can we detect how Jesus is saying these words, “It is finished”.  It is like our perception of anything really; if we only look at the surface of an object, say a house or a tree or a flower or a roof, or even the sky, but don’t observe it in different moods and under different conditions of light and shadow, then we miss so much.  It is still a house or a tree, or whatever, but its impact on us may be different.  It is this light and shadow, this mysterious something, that brings attention and meaning to the ordinary, that I am invoking here, as Jesus utters the words, “It is finished”.  For, though John says nothing of the light here, he is connecting this word to the receiving of the sour wine; whilst Luke connects his final word, that surely must be very close to this one, with the period at the end of three hours of darkness and the tearing of the curtain in the Temple.

 

The point of ending is clear whatever one’s interpretation, the evidence for it being a finish in victory is less easy to prove, but does have the ring of truth; the support of the tearing of the curtain; the symbolism of the new way, thus demonstrated, indicates that we don’t look upon the crucifixion as the defeat and the resurrection the victory; for me it is very important to acknowledge the place the moment of victory is just before Christ’s death; when all has been completed; the sacrifice made; the suffering endured; and love shown to be greater than death; stronger than the tendency with human life for decline and sin. 

 

It is finished; the victory is won; death is to come and burial; gentle hands will caress the body that is loved by those close to him; anointed with oils and perfumed with spices the victorious Christ will be laid in the tomb, but that moment has not quite come.

 

Fifth Hymn

 

O sacred head -  https://youtu.be/A2h-JvyGu14

 

1 O sacred head, surrounded

by crown of piercing thorn!

O bleeding head, so wounded,

so shamed and put to scorn!

Death's pallid hue comes o'er thee,

the glow of life decays;

yet angel-hosts adore thee,

and tremble as they gaze.

 

2 Thy comeliness and vigour

is withered up and gone,

and in thy wasted figure

I see death drawing on.

O agony and dying!

O love to sinners free!

Jesu, all grace supplying,

turn thou thy face on me.

 

3 In this thy bitter passion,

good Shepherd, think of me

with thy most sweet compassion,

unworthy though I be:

beneath thy cross abiding

for ever would I rest,

in thy dear love confiding,

and with thy presence blest

 

Luke 23: 46. The Seventh Word from the Cross – Then Jesus crying with a loud voice said, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”

 

This word of committal is no more an act of capitulation by Jesus, than his cry of victory, “It is finished”.  Luke makes this clear with his comment:  “Then Jesus crying with a loud voice….”  Both Matthew and Mark do not record Jesus saying anything after the words:  “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.”  It is from John and from Luke that we have his last words of victory and committal.  Matthew does give us the scene as Jesus dies: of earthquake and the tombs opening and rocks being split, and again, with Luke and Mark, the evidence of the veil of the Temple being rent. Mark records with Matthew that Jesus gave a loud cry at this point, but it is only Luke who gives us the words.

 

All of this evidence confirms me in the view that not only was something happening of cosmic proportions here; something we can barely talk about for awe of the very nature of Christ’s death.  This conclusion to the Crucifixion is hardly ours to comment on, we can only envisage the scene with the strength of our imagination.  There is no doubt that those standing near knew that something of huge importance had taken place, but yet there is an intimacy in this moment that has not been revealed as clearly in the earlier words.  Jesus is committing himself to his Father; this is a natural sort of prayer that we may all wish to use at the time of death - and perhaps each use every day of life as well.  Bishop Thomas Ken’s beautiful evening hymn comes to mind here, “All praise to thee, my God, this night, for all the blessings of the light”  “Teach me to live that I may dread the grave as little as my bed.”  “Teach me to die, that so I may rise glorious at the aweful day.”  That is aweful with an “e” in the middle; filled with awe, with amazement and with a heart and soul lifted to Paradise, not a terrible and frightening experience. 

 

The moment of release is ultimate at the point of death, but merely reflects the inclination of that person each day of their life.  The difference between the quiet prayer before sleep and the cry of our Lord could not provide a greater contrast though in another way.  Here is Jesus apparently summoning the last of his strength to show that in the end it is all about relationship, love, commitment, trust and doing the Father’s will.  He is illustrating that he is not alone, either in life or in death and his eyes are cast about him in concern for the depth of the sorrow or failure or fear of those around him

 

The seven words of Christ from the Cross are concerned with his love for others, with soldiers, a penitent thief, his closest companions; with his Father – they are largely about relationships in their broadest sense; the expression of love and the continuing life of the spirit in the experience of human life.  It is no accident that the last of these expressions brings Jesus full circle, from the draining of the cup in the commitment of his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to the commitment of his own soul to the Father in the ultimate trust of he who knows that he can do nothing but offer himself: freely of his own will in the Garden; openly with his dying breath on the Cross of Calvary.

 

This is almost the end for those who stood by the Cross.  It seems likely that Jesus hung there for three hours or not much short of it.  Mark records that the crucifixion lasted from the third hour, i.e. 9.00 a.m., but John on the other hand insists that he was still with Pilate at the sixth hour: midday.    We have been warned by commentators not to take the timings as particularly accurate as we would with the clocks and watches of our day, there was not such a precise reckoning and all the evangelists are giving us is an approximate passing of time.  Our three hours from noon to 3.00 p.m. is probably not far wrong.  However long it was, at this moment we are acknowledging the hanging on of Christ; he has borne so much through not just the hours since his arrest but from the outset of his ministry, but now he can commit to the Father’s will in complete trust. It is a moment of profound peace, of release and for us exquisite joy.  The curtain of the Temple is rent, the earthquake over, the darkness has passed, and the light of the world is about to be lovingly taken from the place of crucifixion to the place that will be unable to hold him – the grave.

 

 

Sixth Hymn

 

We sing the praise of him who died - :https://youtu.be/qvzjyLDuyhk

 

1 We sing the praise of him who died,

of him who died upon the cross;

the sinner's hope let men deride,

for this we count the world but loss.

 

2 Inscribed upon the cross we see

in shining letters, 'God is love';

he bears our sins upon the tree;

he brings us mercy from above.

 

3 The cross! It takes our guilt away:

it holds the fainting spirit up;

it cheers with hope the gloomy day,

and sweetens every bitter cup.

 

4 It makes the coward spirit brave,

and nerves the feeble arm for fight;

it takes its terror from the grave,

and gilds the bed of death with light:

 

5 The balm of life, the cure of woe,

the measure and the pledge of love,

the sinner's refuge here below,

the angels' theme in heaven above

 

 

 

The closing prayers

 

 

Father, hear our prayer and forgive us.

Unstop our ears,

that we may receive the gospel of the cross.

Lighten our eyes,

that we may see your glory in the face of your Son.

Penetrate our minds,

that your truth may make us whole.

Irradiate our hearts with your love,

that we may love one another for Christ’s sake.

Father, forgive us.

Amen

 

Almighty and everlasting God,

the comfort of the sad, the strength of those who suffer:

hear the prayers of your children who cry out of any trouble,

and to every distressed soul grant mercy, relief and refreshment,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

We commend ourselves and all God’s children to his unfailing love,

and pray for the grace of a holy life,

that, with all who have died in the peace of Christ,

we may come to the fullness of eternal life

and the joy of the resurrection.

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light,

look favourably on your whole Church,

that wonderful and sacred mystery,

and by the tranquil operation of your perpetual providence

carry out the work of our salvation:

and let the whole world feel and see

that things which were cast down are being raised up

and things which had grown old are being made new

and that all things are returning to perfection

through him from whom they took their origin,

even Jesus Christ our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

Amen.