Good Friday: The Way of the Cross and the Vigil at the Altar of Repose

Today we observed Good Friday – the day Christ died on the cross for our sins. I’ve wondered why it is called “Good” Friday, when the greatest abomination in the history of the world occurred on that day. I’ve read several explanations; for example, it may have been called “God’s Friday” originally and through the years got distorted to “Good Friday.” But most explanations focus on the good that came from this terrible day. Because of our Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, we (you, me, and anyone who accepts the gift) gain remission of our sins and resurrection into eternal life.

In my church, All Saints Anglican, we observe Good Friday with the Way of the Cross, a devotion that reminds us of Christ’s sufferings, our own sins, and the great Love our Savior has for us.

After the noon service, I spent my time in the Vigil at the Altar of Repose. After the foot washing and Communion service on Maundy Thursday, the altar is stripped and the congregation leaves in dark and quiet. The priest carries the Reserve Sacrament (the bread and wine that have already been blessed) to a smaller altar outside the main sanctuary. From that time until sunrise on Easter morning, we keep the vigil. People volunteer for one hour at a time – remembering that Jesus asked His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane if they could not watch with Him one hour – to pray.

Since there was an unfilled slot in the schedule after my allotted time, I volunteered to spend two hours in the vigil. My husband was concerned about me spending three hours (from the beginning of the Way of the Cross to end of my vigil) because when I sit still for long period of time, I usually start having little myoclonic seizures, what Jack calls “jumping.”

“What if you start jumping?” he asked before I left home.

“Jesus won’t care,” I replied, knowing I would be alone in the church.

I usually leave church when I start jumping during services, because in addition to my left leg and arm jerking out, I cry out “Oh!” loudly with each jerk. This is completely uncontrollable in spite of trying lots of different treatments and medications. Since I don’t want to disturb other worshippers (and it’s also stressful for me), I leave, even though Fr. Chip (our priest) has assured me he can talk over me.

I did jump several times in the last half hour of my vigil, but I knew the Lord didn’t mind.

What did I do for more than two hours? I wish I could say that I could “Be still and know that I am God.” But I have to confess that my mind tends to wander, so I need to focus. I read all four Gospel accounts of the Last Supper through the Crucifixion. I read the words of all the hymns listed under Passiontide in the hymnal. I prayed intercessory prayers for the people on the parish and my personal prayer lists. I read Psalm 22 and prophecies from Isaiah. I prayed the Litany and the Penitential Office. I prayed the Collects and read the readings for Good Friday.

And I meditated upon the great sacrifice of the King of Glory, the Incarnate Lord, the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. He endured a humiliating and excruciating death that I – and you and all who believe on Him – can attain forgiveness of our sins and everlasting life.

[tags]Good Friday, Way of the Cross, Vigil at the Altar of Repose[/tags]

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