The last few days have been pretty good to just sit back and reflect. I’d never been to the Tenebre Good Friday prayer service at the Basilica. I thought about going to the afternoon service at 3 p.m., but I decided not to. I walked around downtown a little bit before meeting my parents and some of their friends prior to heading into Mass.
I’ll admit, I was a little restless. I didn’t get my usual post-work run and my dad was really pushing for getting into church about an hour early. I usually don’t mind just sitting around in the quiet a few minutes before Mass, but my mind wanders after about 10 minutes.
My dad wasn’t to far off. There were about 50 people inside the church before we got in. We waited, but it finally got started. It was just about standing-room-only.
Now for those of you not familiar with Catholic Mass, it gets kind of repetitive. We have a standing operating procedure: stand, sit, kneel, stand, kneel, sit, etc. This was a little bit different. There was no Holy Eucharist because it had been removed from the church already.
This service involved the story of the passion broken into short chunks, which were mixed in with beautiful songs, and other interactive (sounds weird to say, but yes) parts.
There was a large wooden crossed passed back over the congregation. It went right over me. It felt good to touch it and help pass it along. This is why I’ve come to appreciate Easter more. You feel parts of the service more. The washing of the feet, anointing of the hands, veneration of the cross. While the Christmas liturgy is beautiful in its own right, it’s not the same as Easter.
There was a wonderful arrangement of a poem that was found by the Allies during WWII in Germany. It had something to do with faith. I’m upset that I can’t find it. While many church-related things feel like they took place a few thousand years ago, it’s reaffirming to relate these feelings to things that happened not so long ago.
One of the most unique parts of the service was when a Rabbi from Temple Israel addressed the congregation. She was a wonderful speaker (and she also received a standing ovation, one of the only times I’ve seen that happened in church.) She told the story of how her Grandmother was rescued from the Nazis by taking sanctuary in a convent. That was a powerful image. It was a refreshing call for religious dialogue in this time of hyper-fear towards people of other faiths.
As the service went on, a set of candles near the altar were being gradually extinguished. They andd one left after the last reading was done. After the final prayer, they walked it out of the church in total darkness. A tympani was pounded on and the congregation was asked to hit the pews to make noises. It was to symbolize the earthquake after Jesus died. I got shivers down my back.
The candle was then walked back. A single light was lit above the altar. And then thousands of rose petals were dropped. It was magnificent, simple, and peaceful. Catholics don’t always go for show during their services, but this was a wonderful end to the evening. I saw a few with tears in their eyes.
Faith is hard. Sitting in church for hours can be annoying, but there are those little times when your heart opens and it all feels wonderful.