As we move from Lent to Easter, we’ll provide Ignatian prayers for the Triduum, inspired by videos from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Good Friday are based on John 18:1—19:42. The art is “The Capture of Christ” by the Master of the Karlsruhe.
So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them, “For whom are you looking?”
The unity for which we ask in preparation to accompany Jesus in his Passion is not our unity within ourselves. It is unity with him in his suffering.
This is less than easy to ask for.
Settle your body: head, back, legs, feet…
Settle your mind, letting go of thoughts, letting go, letting go…
Settle your heart, noticing resistance, opening to love…
As you do these things, ask of the Lord what St. Ignatius suggests: “What is proper to prayer on the Passion [is] to ask for grief with Christ in grief, to be broken with Christ broken, for tears and interior suffering on account of the great suffering that Christ endured for me.” (SE 203)
Tilt your chin to the heavens and, with eyes open or closed, look back at the One who gazes at you with great affection. Ask for compassion.
See the chaos depicted in the painting. Hear the priests and the soldiers, the Pharisees and the disciples press against one another. Smell the night air and the sweat. Feel the grip of the guards as they take hold of Jesus.
This is no staged drama. These men do not wait for one another to finish their speeches before the trumpet is blown or the torches are lit. The ropes and the swords are there to be used.
And in the midst of this we have asked for compassion, which means we have asked to suffer with the One. Such petitions are signs of either sanctity or insanity.
- Do you want to be drawn out of yourself?
- Is there a desire within you to accompany Jesus even in this? Can you ask the Father for what you want?
- If not—and that is okay—ask instead for the desire to want to be with him. Can you do so?
The gift of compassion within the Passion is the gift of escaping our narrow selves and of dying to them. When any part of us—even the selfish part of ourselves that repels us—is threatened, we resist. Even the death of these darkest parts of ourselves we resist. This is the heart of our lost-ness.
And Jesus bears even this. See his face in the chaos.
- What is he thinking beneath his bowed back? What is he feeling?
- Can you ask? Can you await his reply in word, gesture, or glance?
- How do you feel as he is bound?
Jesus is Love incarnate. He is Love become a human being. This is what we have asked to feel compassion for—for Love made flesh.
And this is what happens to the living Love in our world. It is held in little esteem.
- What is it like to have compassion on such a man? How do you react?
- Do you turn your back on love, like Judas, when it is crushed?
- Do you rise up, like Peter, in fear and fury, to crush that which crushes love?
- Or are you filled with sadness? Do you mourn?
Speak with Jesus about what happens to your compassion as he is carried away. Tell him what you are afraid of and what it is like to suffer with him. Speak with him as one friend speaks to another.
Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Wow! When I think about His extraordinary suffering, what occurs to me is what a whiner I am. See, I expect no suffering at all. At least that’s the way it must seem to ?Him when I complain when things in life don’t go my way. Ordinary suffering? I can’t even do THAT. Nosir! If it were up to me my life would never have a minute of struggle or unhappiness or fear and definitely no uncertainty at all. I would be able to figure out my own and everyone else’s problems by my own brainpower of course and everyone, especially me, would have all the material security needed. Oh wait, I already do have all the material security I need! Just not all I want. Point is, I can’t even handle ordinary suffering without whining and complaining. Most likely because, like the the Israelites, and the disciples, I’m, well, human. So when I try to “enter into Christ’s suffering,” I have to do it with some degree of cautionary awareness. And two specific actions. First is to say the Prayer of St. Francis, because honestly, the only way I can enter into an experience with Him is if His Spirit helps me do it, makes me a channel. Second, I practice thanking Him for experiences I would otherwise find annoying, fearful, anxiety-producing or sad. Often through gritted teeth. “Thank you for this setback. You know how angry I feel. I don’t get it. I don’t like it. But thank you anyway.” Sort of end runs the embarrassing experience three to six months down the road when I have to sheepishly admit He knew what He was doing anyway.