A Reflection for Good Friday

Friday, 10th April 2020

A Reflection for Good Friday

A few moments ago I was outside in the Abbey garden. The sun shone on cherry blossom and tulips. Spring ablaze before me, full of new life and promise. I came back to my desk and there was a complaint to deal with. It is a day for ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other’. It is my experience that in the isolation we are living in I feel the push and pull of different experience more strongly. I cannot test my experience so easily against what someone else is feeling. I feel my isolation. Isolation can get to you.

In the great crisis that engulfs us now, I notice just how many of the stories we tell are about people who do not measure up as we think they should. In lockdown, in our isolation, we are actually becoming more isolated as we record our shock and disappointment that other people just do not ‘get it’. There are the people who are not obeying the rules, in parks, in shops, or in cars bound for beauty spots. There are politicians who should have done that, or done this much sooner. There are hoarders, there are footballers and football clubs singled out and wondering why. There are just so many people who are not like us. Even when we do better, and choose to tell stories that are not full of disappointment and distrust, we make heroes, instead of villains and there are even more people who are just not like us. Isolation takes hold of us.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the signs of affection in emails and telephone conversations, the people who keep in touch with us, the signs of friendship, the acts of kindness. That is still happening. We create little pools of light and gather (appropriately distanced of course), inside them. Outside though, it can sometimes feel as though there is a greater darkness. Taking my exercise, I catch myself looking at strangers with anxiety that borders on suspicion. Isolation does strange things to us.

I am writing this as we enter what we call the Triduum, the great three days that take us from the night of Maundy Thursday (the Last Supper and Christ’s agony in the garden) into Easter morning. The story we will tell (isolated and distanced) is a story full of boundaries, divisions and shattered relationship. Jesus is betrayed and deserted, Jews and Romans keep their distance, there is a lot of talk of light and dark. The story of our divisions is the story in which Christ lives and dies. Indeed, our divisions, our determination to push love away, is what kills Christ.

We keep this Triduum every year. We tell this story about our anxiety, suspicion and division over and over. These are basic temptations. It is very human to feel these things. There is another humanity though. We see it in NHS staff working in places of great danger. We see it in that great army of people volunteering their help and in all those people, whose jobs are so much more difficult and more dangerous than they were, but who still turn up for work. We see that other humanity in Christ. It is this humanity that rises in grace and glory at Easter. This is the love and reconciliation that is our destiny and our home. We may not be there, but it is where we are going.