Doing something remarkable

Father Anthony Spanley holds a crucifix during veneration on Good Friday at Holy Cross Church in Hamlet, Ind., April 6. (CNS photo/Michael McArdle, Northwest Indiana Catholic) (April 10, 2012)

Father Anthony Spanley holds a crucifix during veneration on Good Friday at Holy Cross Church in Hamlet, Ind., April 6. (CNS photo/Michael McArdle, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

Yesterday, Deacon Greg wrote:

The simple fact is: this can’t be a day like any other. Scripture tells us that on the day Christ died, the world – literally – cracked open. The earth quaked. To this day, we cannot help but remember what was done for us. As the old spiritual tells us, it causes us to tremble.

But in the midst of all this, we do something remarkable.

We venerate the cross with a kiss.

And BroKen, in a related piece, wrote:

Many people outside of faith misunderstand the nature of Christian humility. They see it as demeaning. Many people within the faith think that, too. Fact is, acknowledging a gift as a gift enables one to be lifted by that gift to great heights.

Last night, the missus and I were part of something remarkable, something that though terribly solemn, serious and contemplative, filled us with a sense of holiness and yes, lifted us.

We attended a Good Friday service, within which we, for the first time in either of our lives, participated in the veneration of the cross with a kiss.

I confess now to you that initially, I was uneasy.  This sort of thing is not looked kindly upon by some of my Protestant brethren, and I, at one time, had come to agree with them.  So I actually hesitated as it was our turn to join the procession to the cross.  But I overcame that hesitation.  And I’m glad I did.  Very glad.

I’ll not dwell on our own experience other than to state succinctly that it was powerful and most holy and made me keenly aware of God’s gift in Christ and what Christ has done.

It was an uplifting and remarkabe moment yet the highlight of the evening came just a few minutes later.

The cross had been processed into the sanctuary by our blind priest as part of the rite and placed in the front center of the circular sanctuary.  We were seated in a front row maybe 30 feet from the cross.  Congregants lined up from the center of each side of the sanctuary and approached the cross from opposing sides.

We watched as young and old, large and small, tall and short came to either touch or kiss it or bow or genuflect before it.  The reverence was palpable.  Most kneeled before touching or kissing.  The choir sang quietly throughout the rite with some moments of silence between songs.

It was during one of these quiet moments when the silence was broken by the surprisingly loud sounds of very slow yet very steady footsteps.  I turned to my right and back to see an elderly man with a cane being led by a woman I presumed then and now to be his wife.  They alone were coming down an aisle adjacent to the aisle set aside for the congregational procession to the cross.

His steps were tiny and his efforts obviously labored but I was close enough to see his eyes.  They were shiny, as if on the verge of loosing tears, but determined.  It took him a good while to simply approach the cross and by this time, those in line had paused to allow him access.

His wife glanced from the path foward and back to her husband time and again while they slowly, so slowly, approached but his eyes were locked on the cross.

After some time and obvious struggle, he arrived.  He appeared to initially bend as if to kneel but stopped abruptly, perhaps in pain.  He then reached out to the cross, touched it lightly, brought his hand back to his mouth, and then back to the cross and then did his best to bow and here he paused for what seemed like a long moment.  I wondered what he was thinking, what was going through his head.  He then ever so slowly, turned back to his wife, and they resumed their struggling stepping back toward their seats.

At this point, I could see his face clearly, and though I know not what was going through the man’s mind, clearly I saw that he had been touched by the experience.  As he slowly, ever so slowly, struggled past us back to their seats, I lowered my head in respect but to also hide the fact that I had become emotional.  I was overcome by a man’s faith in God and his manifest hope in what was yet to come.

I had witnessed a suffering servant connecting to The Suffering Servant and in that connection and in that moment, my own bond with Christ was strengthened.

Remarkable indeed.

Originally published at Brutally Honest in April, 2010

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