All depart in silence
A Homily from Peter Gallagher for the Solemn Commem- oration of the Lord’s Passion.
All depart in silence. This is the rubric in the missal, for the end of the solemn commemoration of the Lord’s Passion. All depart in silence. There is nothing more to say. We are surrounded by the silence of death. We wait, hoping for the Resurrection, but, very quietly, subdued, considering carefully what has happened. There is no concluding hymn, only a quiet departure: we are silent and recollected.
Good Friday is not entirely a day of quiet. There are the many words of the passion. We are invited to savour the details and to enter into the several momentous scenes in all their rich complexity which include plenty of noise: the hubbub of the judges and officials of religion and state, the racket of the mob, the sounds of violence, the din of protest. The other condemned are also in great pain; perhaps they are screaming.
It is the silence of death
Then comes silence. It is the silence of death. Everything is accomplished, completed. For us, it is also the silence of prayerful contemplation. We think about the death of our Saviour. We creep reverently and thoughtfully to the cross. The words of the Passion help us into this silence. Our thoughts are centred on the great events, on the persons involved and on Him.
He, Jesus, is the Word. The Word of God is silent now but he still wields authority over confused shouting, chatter, and gossip. Jesus, the silenced Word, is now our prayer, our recollection, our deep thought. The Word is made flesh in us. The Word is eloquent, expressive and compendious even in the great silence. We ourselves may be inarticulate with confusion, sadness or pain. We depart in silence. Yet Jesus the Word is in us and communicates eloquently in our silence.
A kind of music
There are no words but there is a kind of music. Jesus is often the expressive music in our life. He is never speechless with frustration, or baffled, as we are. Dwelling in us, the Lord sings. Even on the cross the Son expresses his sense of abandonment in words sung in the psalms. The music that Jesus is assists us to be with him in this hour. There is silence over all the earth: we are speechless with sorrow; the executed Christ nevertheless harmonises everything that is happening.
And the harmony that is Jesus is always the ally of our prayer. If there is tumult elsewhere in life may the silence of Jesus Christ sing gently in the heart. There is always an harmonious stillness to be found around the Lord. But on Good Friday the peace comes only after the worst of the world’s shouting. The most strident, the most shrill, the most petulant of cries have been heard: they seemed to drown out the voice of God. The clamour of his own creation silenced the Son.
A singing silence in which God still speaks
Yet the cross is venerated amid all that has been created and blessed. The tree of redemption is planted now not on Calvary but in the noisiest, the most troublesome, the least satisfactory part of our life. That is the part of our existence which silences us. Yet this silence is the beautiful music of Good Friday, reasserting the beauty of God in Christ. What we are thinking and praying softens the assault on God at Golgotha. We depart in silence, but in a singing silence in which God still speaks to us and listens to us, and we to Him.
Peter Gallagher SJ