“They shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child; for the Lord who is without sin, is slain.”These words from the prophet Zachariah, spoken as an antiphon at Tenebrae on Wednesday, is a reminder that our experience of Good Friday is the mourning of one who was slain, like those who mourn the loss of their only beloved child, it is a tragedy and a great loss.
Jesus death on the cross, strikes at the heart of our faith and our lives. It is one thing to think back and consider the events some two thousand years ago. It is quite another to realize that we have mourning parents nearby whose child was slain.
Good Friday came early for many parents & godparents, and in fact the whole community of Newtown last December. They are still very much grieving the tragic loss of those children (and adults).
As I thought about Good Friday & Sandy Hook, I remembered an anthem I had sung years ago on Good Friday. (Think about music and the power it has, memories of childhood, or significant events, songs you want played at funeral, etc. – they have meaning for us)
On that Good Friday some 16 years ago or so, we sang When David Heard. It is based on the passage from II Samuel, 18:33 (KJV):
“When David heard that Absalom was slain he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept, my son, my son, O Absalom my son, would God I had died for thee!”As an anthem it is sad and disturbing, and the constant refrain, O Abslaom, my son, my son… you could feel David’s great pain, & through singing it, it became my own and it brought the loss of Good Friday home to me.
It is the song I have come back to since Sandy Hook because David’s cry is the cry of any parent who has lost a child. MY son, my son, my daughter, would God I had died for thee…
The anthem was written by Thomas Weelkes, organist of Chichester Cathedral, after Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales and the son of King James VI of Scotland and England, died tragically at the age of 18. After Henry's sudden death in November 1612, artistic memorials to him invoked the grief of the nation, which included several musical settings of King David's biblical lament for his son Absalom.
“When David Heard” was a musical way for a nation to mourn the death of the king’s son. I wonder if we as a nation have lost our way in mourning the victims of Sandy Hook, lost the nerve to ask the hard questions, we have shied away from the cross of December 14 and of so many who die too young at the hands of others.
The cross on Good Friday does not let us escape from any of it, we must sit and weep at the loss of sons and daughters, all of them, with too many parents and friends weeping at their graves. We weep with Mary & the disciples at the foot of Jesus cross.
This Good Friday, Jesus on the cross beckons us to stand near and take notice, that his death not be avoided in vain, but held on to, so that we can be with one another in grief that is too often too much to bear.
When his mother and the beloved disciple came close, Jesus connected them in their grief, so his mom and the disciple whom he loved would not be lost. Let us not lose one another, let us embrace the cross, the pain and sorrow, for we mourn for him as one mourns for an only child; for the Lord who is without sin, is slain. Amen.