Words sometimes fail us. If you were asked to explain what Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross meant to you personally, you might find if difficult to put into words.
Our emotions well up to the surface and get in the way. We Catholics know that. That’s why ritual is so important to us. When ritual is done well, words are not necessary to convey meaning. Words are simply not even needed.
Every Good Friday we do the same thing. The Good Friday service always begins in silence with the presider prostrating himself before the altar. This happens only once a year. What does it say?
Maybe is says that we acknowledge that we have had a hand in killing Jesus. We have killed the divine presence in one another with our callous words, our harsh condemnations and our mean spirited actions.
And what we’ve done to others, we’ve done to Jesus. Words can’t touch this tragedy so we lie face down on the floor to acknowledge our wrongs.
It’s like the aftermath of so many school shootings. People are left speechless because words cannot express the depth of the tragedy.
The other gesture is one that we all participate in. We venerate the wood of the cross. Some touch it lightly, others kiss the wood, others bow or genuflect, some even weep from a distance.
Those who venerate the cross come close to the crucified Jesus to find meaning for their own suffering.
The cross of Jesus can bring tremendous consolation and comfort to those who are imprisoned by addiction, those who are grieving the death of a love one, those who are struggling with health or self-esteem or identity issues, those who are tortured by scrupulosity or other mental health issues, those who are victims of abuse, neglect or torture.
Suffering runs deep and a tremendous amount of suffering is brought to the foot of the cross on Good Friday.
We don’t need words to know that Jesus is suffering with us. As a matter of fact, when we face this reality our words fail. So we rely on gesture and symbol and ritual. Our actions speak louder than our words. They are profound.
Our actions today unite us to the Passion of Christ. They do not fail. Our Good Friday ritual bring us tremendous consolation even in the face of suffering and death.