The Journey to Resurrection
(Lent, Holy Week and Easter in a Monastery) Day 11 Suffering
“A world without suffering is an illusion”
Good Friday Sermon
It is Good Friday now. The church is bare. The crypt chapel in the monastery serves as a small tomb where the Sacrament is kept for those who want to keep vigil until the celebration of Easter.
Good Friday, is all emptiness. Perhaps it is like a moment following a great tragedy. The moment the fire was put out at Notre Dame Cathedral. The moment the gun goes off and damage is done. The moment one realizes they have committed a huge mistake and there is no turning back. The moment of still after the earthquake or Tsunamis wondering who is alive and who not. It is the silence of Mary holding her son in her arms, seeing the lifeless body of her son, that same child she held in her arms as a helpless baby.
I wanted to write about suffering on Good Friday. Sadly, I am the worse person to embark on that topic. I am a clear 7 on the enneagram. Sevens avoid suffering at all cost and prefer to laugh their way through tragedy or ignore it.
These last months for the first time in my life I have been in physical pain nearly every day. This was after my fall from my bike and a break in my arm.
Suffering is the pain that we must live through because there is no other option or any choice. It is never “good” or “wholesome”, and few times “redemptive”. It is just suffering.
Suffering puts us in touch with the pain of the world, and the pain of others who must live with less, or with illness, or poverty, or want. When we suffer, we are at our most human and humble state in the world. No longer proud or obstinate. No longer fighting or kicking against the goad.
In suffering we meet this “empty” place where God meets us. God meets us usually very Silently, like the man or woman sitting beside you at a bus stop. Just a few glances or glares of interest in the waiting.
In our suffering we die to ourselves and we make room for grace and graciousness to take over. We create space for compassion and mercy. We must accept ourselves for what we are and let go of false securities.
On Good Friday we sing at Tenebrae “Christ learned obedience through suffering”, (Christus Factus es). The canticle is repeated various times in the monastic office during Good Friday and Holy Saturday. He learned obedience…. through suffering. Perhaps it was not his will to suffer. Certainly on Holy Thursday night at the Garden of Gethsemane he sought some way out. In the end he gave in.
Good Friday puts us in touch with that part of ourselves when we must sit in silence, sit in suffering, sit in expectation, that this empty time or space will at some point be overcome. We are the grain of wheat that dies in the ground in order to become the green blade. It is our personal “passover” from slavery to freedom, from death to life, from exile to coming home again.
Today there are 5 long stretches of Liturgy throughout the day in the monastery to commemorate suffering. We are on that journey along side Him who suffered for us. “If we die with him,
We shall surely rise with him”.
This is our hope on Good Friday. Every year we stand beneath the cross. Every year we share that common bond of human suffering the world over. We feel some pain, sadness, emptiness. We know there are others who at this moment are living the cross.
Between liturgies I took a walk in the countryside. At one moment I lay in the grassy field filled with bright dandy-lions.
For that moment I forgot suffering.
I was reminded that daily the sun rises and sets. The breeze moves across the field and the water. Baby ducks are born again in streams and riverbeds. New life is all around us. This is the promise of Easter!
Pic The field outside the monastery