At our church on Good Friday we have a “Three Hour Service” (noon to 3 pm, the hours during Jesus’ crucifixion during which Matthew says “darkness came over all the land”). It’s a drop-in affair; some people stay for the entire service, but most for just an hour or so. The service is structured around the “Seven Last Words,” the seven times that Jesus spoke from the cross. A hymn, a short meditation on one of the “Words,” silence, prayer, more silence, then repeat for the next “Word.”
What is unusual, besides the length of the service, is that the meditations are written and delivered by lay persons, not a priest. Seven persons each year struggle with what is known in the church as the Paschal Mystery, the heart of Christianity, and then share the results of their struggle. The resulting meditations are not pre-approved, not vetted for orthodoxy, so it is an act of faith on the part of priests, listeners, and speakers that some illumination of this Mystery will be forthcoming.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to do several of these mediations. The “Words” are listed below, with links to my mediations in case you are interested.
1st Word (Luke 23:32-34)
“Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
2nd Word (Luke 23:39-43)
“Verily, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
3rd Word (John 19:26-27)
“Woman, behold thy son! Son, behold thy mother!”
4th Word (Mark 15:34)
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!”
5th Word (John 19:28)
6th Word (John 19:30)
“It is finished.”
7th Word (Luke 23:44-46)
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”