Silence is often the only response we have to certain situations. Indeed, there is an eloquence to silence that words sometimes spoil. It is silence that has the first and the last word today. Indeed, even the lack of musical accompaniment to the hymns and music adds a stark solemnity to our singing and enables us to express something which is deep and profound.
As we gather in silence the priest and ministers lie prostrate before the bare altar in sorrow, in penitence, in awe, in love? Today's ritual is, as all ritual should be, precise, symbolic, expressive and often needs little explanation. And so the silence becomes prayer.
The Passion of the Lord
The reading of the passion narrative is not a dramatic play but incoprorates us into the divine drama which is played out in our lives. In the gospel according to John we see Jesus as the sovereign King who has laid down his life in order to take it up again.
After the homily, the church stretches out his arms in prayer, as though standing with Christ who, with outstretched arms between heaven and earth, makes everlasting intercession for us. Jesus Christ is the Hight Priest. We are always praying in and with Christ. Today's intercessions are as wide as the world and expresses in a clear way what all our intercessory prayer is or should be.
Veneration of the Cross
The crosses within the church have been veiled for almost two weeks now, hidden from view. And now in a simple, silent moment, the cross is shown to the people, as the veil is slowly removed. 'This is the wood of the cross / Come let us worship.'
The ceremony of venerating the cross began in the fourth century when St Helena disovered the true cross of Jesus. As people made pilgrimage to Jerusalem they desired to glimpse this relic, to venerate, adore. Good Friday was one such day for the cross to be revealed and soon this practice, although not necessarily including fragments of the true cross, spread throughout the church.
The priest and others then remove their shoes in a gesture of humility and love, and all are invited to draw near and, further still, to touch or kiss the cross. We do not turn away from the cross in shame but we glory in it as a sign of victory and salvation. In the cross we discover the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). The veneration is accompanied by singing, most beautifully by the Reproaches which Jesus makes to those who pierced him: 'O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you? Answer me.'
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is then transferred from the place where it has been reserved the evening before and we receive communion in one kind only, the sacred body of Christ
The cross remains in place for people to venerate and adore, to stay a little while, to adore, to pray. Silence too remains and accompanies people as they leave. They will return next in the dark hours of Saturday evening/Sunday morning for the Easter Vigil when the silence will be filled with anticipation and joy
We hope these prayers will offer some help for you in your time of pain and sadness.
Here you will find
prayers of comfort and assurance,
prayers that help to express anger or hurt or pain,
prayers to strengthen and console,
prayers, too, for your departed loved one and to commend them to God.
May the love of God
and the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and gently wipe away every tear from our eyes.
And may Almighty God bless us,
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Lord, in our grief we turn to you.
Are you not the God of love
always ready to hear our cries?
Listen to our prayers for (insert name)
whom you have called out of this world.
Lead him/her to your kingdom of light and peace
and count him/her among your saints in glory.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayers of Trust
in darkness and light,
in trouble and in joy,
help us to trust your love,
to serve your purpose
and to praise your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen,
hear our prayers and comfort us;
renew our trust in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead;
strengthen our faith
that (insert name, and) all who have died
in the love of Christ
will share in his resurrection;
who lives and reigns with you, now and forever. Amen.
Prayers of Hurt and Anger
you know our hurts and share our sorrows.
We are hurt by our parting from (insert name) whom we have loved:
when we are angry at the loss we have sustained,
when we long for words of comfort,
yet find them hard to hear,
turn our grief to truer living,
our affliction to firmer hope
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Father, the death of (insert name)
brings an emptiness into our lives.
We are separated from him/her
and feel broken and bewildered.
Give us confidence that he/she is safe
and his/her life complete with you,
and bring us together at the last
to the wholeness and fullness of your presence in heaven,
where your saints and angels enjoy you for ever and ever. Amen.
When Lonely or Afraid
Risen Lord Jesus,
draw near to us as we walk this lonely road.
Pierce our weary sorrow
and gladden our heavy hearts as you go with us,
and bring us in the end to your heavenly table. Amen.
whose Son Jesus Christ said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid”,
take away our fear of death;
bring us to the place that he has gone to prepare for us;
and give us his peace for ever. Ame
This is the wood of the cross
on which hung the saviour of the world.
Come, let us worship
Depiction of St Helena who, amongst many other relics, is said to have discovered the relic of the true cross which was instrumental in the present day practice of the veneration of the cross on Good Friday