The title that comes to mind is The Stripping of the Altars. It was among the eeriest sensations I’ve had in a long time: walking into a church denuded of ornament except for a thick wooden cross at the steps leading up the altar.
I was there as one of five readers. Our text was the Passion as described by St. John, from Jesus’ arrest to (my reading) Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus wrapping the body in fragrances and interring it.
I know the story. I’ve been to other Good Friday services in various churches. But this one got to me. Perhaps because I was one of the lectors in what I suspect is the most unique moment for lectors during the entire liturgical year. Laymen do not get to read the Gospels. Today five of us did.
In spite of knowing the story, reciting John’s account of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion is emotionally draining. The reading that fell to me–even though we all know what happens on Sunday–is immensely sad. Each of us finished the reading by extinguishing a candle. By the time the last candle was out, it was as though the light had gone out of the world, and would be rekindled only at the Easter Vigil. We do not do Tenebrae in my parish (does anyone besides Trinity Church in lower Manhattan?), but the feeling of darkness was sufficiently intense.
It is good to kneel at the large cross afterwards, then to sit in quiet at home. I don’t know if blogging counts as quiet. I know grading papers does not, but render unto our students what is theirs, even if they may not like it very much.