We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You. Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.

And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

I always breathe a sigh of relief when, during the Good Friday liturgy, we reach this line: the worst is over. Jesus has passed beyond the reach of His torturers, and nothing else can harm Him.

After a pause, the narrative is picked up again, but the focus has changed. Jesus is gone, the violent earthquake that ripped the Temple veil has passed, and we are left with the story of ordinary people doing small, practical things: finding a ladder to climb up and take out the nails, unfolding and laying out linen cloths, going into the city to collect fragrant oils and spices, and coming back up the hill to anoint the body. After the escalating violence of the Passion narrative, everything is suddenly still, quiet, and hollow.

We feel a pale reflection of the disciples’ loss every time we enter a church on Good Friday – the visceral wrongness of seeing the Tabernacle standing open and empty. You may have found that as Lent dragged to a close in the convent, the sense of hollowness was even worse, filling not only the chapel but also the cloisters and cells, everywhere that the Presence was supposed to be, but wasn’t. Every year, when Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is gone, ordinary people must go on doing small, practical things in His absence: practising the chant, counting out candles for the service on Saturday evening, and replacing any wilting flowers on the Altar of Repose. And, above all, waiting. In the convent or out in the world, on Holy Thursday we watch and pray as the the Body of Christ is carried away from us, and we carry on quietly so that He will find us at work upon His return.

By Spiritu.

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