I began my reading vigil last night; I didn’t know that I would do this. But the journey through Holy Week always takes its own course, particularly as I stand at Good Friday in the shadow of the cross. I selected a book for my journey that has been a companion before, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. Each time I sit with these words, new depths of meaning speak to me.
This is Good Friday. This is a suffering world, filled with people who feel overlooked and forgotten. Just one glimpse at our social media and we can see the invisible craving to find eyes who will see them. We hear screaming from those who fear they will be silenced, who are silenced, and whose shouts bury the cries of those at the margins. This is a world filled with suffering.
Is God blind? I hear people ask.
Is God deaf to our cries? I hear us, despairing, for our cause.
Our God is the God who suffers, willingly, with those who suffer. On Good Friday it is God who suffers the pains of cruel humanity. But, it is not enough that we walk this road with a suffering God. It is not sufficient to skip over this pain and get to the resurrection. It’s easy to believe in a powerful God that grants our wishes. What is more challenging is to believe that in the depths of our suffering we are compelled to know that God abides with us in that suffering because we are that profoundly loved.
It is more than most of us can bear, the profundity of this love.
These are the words that echo in my mind and speak to my soul as I walk this path of Good Friday with my eyes and my ears open, aware of suffering, aware of love, aware of God…
You are the poor one, you the destitute.
You are the stone that has no resting place.
You are the diseased one
who we fear to touch.
Only the wind is yours.
You are poor like the spring rain
that gently caresses the city;
like wishes murmured in a prison cell, without a world to hold them;
and like the invalid turning in his bed to ease the pain.
Like flowers along the tracks, shuddering
as the train roars by, and like the hand
that covers our face when we cry–that poor.
Yours is the suffering of birds on freezing nights,
of dogs who go hungry for days.
Yours is the long, sad waiting of animals
who are locked up and forgotten.
You are the beggar who averts his face,
the homeless person who has given up asking,
you howl in the storm.
–Rainer Maria Rilke, Love Poems to God (tr. Barrows & Macy), III.18