Singing "O Sacred Head Sore Wounded" is one of the "joys" of Holy Week. Bach's chorale from his St Matthew's Passion is a beautiful expression of Holy Week piety - familiar, yet not overused the way Christmas songs can be - that never fails to move me to tears when I sing it.
Yesterday, I watched, while standing at my chair in the chancel, a group of teenagers - most of them my son's friends - carrying a huge cross down the aisle of the nave, which they attached to a hook and wire hanging from the ceiling, and stood it up right in front of me. I've seen that cross almost every Palm/Passion Sunday for eighteen years - it's about ten feet tall and very heavy and plain - but watching those teens I've known for years bringing it in and putting it up right in front of me made the drama especially poignant. It was hard to keep singing - like a wreck, my eyes were riveted to what was going on three feet away.
They were very intent on their task and attended to the raising of it with workmanlike precision, and all the while the congregation sang on "Ah, keep my heart thus mov-ed to stand thy cross beneath, to mourn thee, well beloved, yet thank thee for thy death..... Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for thee.... My days are few, O fail not, with thine immortal power, to hold me that I quail not in death's most fearful hour; that I may fight befriended, and see in my last strive to me thine arms extended upon the cross of life." And at the end of the singing, the sound of the hammer, fixing the cross upon its place at the crossing while boys and girls dispersed ... and my heart was mov-ed and my eyes were full of tears.
I spent the first couple of years after coming back to church (after a long absence) sitting in this very nave with tears leaking out most every week. Tears of regret, of sadness, of joy, of relief, of surrender. The grand drama of the Holy Week liturgies particularly entices me to connect or re-connect with my own brokenness and the brokenness of the world we live in.
The world where violence is on view everywhere and lying and cheating are part of everyday life. The world where justice still does not roll down like the waters. The world in which those whose job it is to protect the vulnerable choose instead to protect themselves and their peers. The world where people are still spitting on one another and mocking and calling one another names. The world my children and those teens I watched on Sunday are learning to navigate.
The world God desires to transform into the new heaven and new earth, the time when God will wipe away every tear. As Rev. Ames said in Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead, "Augustine says the Lord loves each one of us as an only child, and that has to be true. 'He will wipe away the tears from all faces.' It takes nothing away from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what is required."
Yes. That is exactly what will be required.