Good Friday darkness in St. George’s Chapel

March 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Choir, Christianity, Good Friday, Passion, St. George's Chapel, Windsor, Windsor Castle | 2 Comments

Postcard of St. George’s Chapel under storm clouds 02 March 2008

We attended the Liturgy of Good Friday in the Nave of St. George’s Chapel this morning. The scene was set for a deep, calm reflection on the violent and dramatic events of Holy Week leading to the dreadful horror of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

The Old Testament Reading was Isaiah 52: 13-5. 12. As the final verses were read, beginning:

The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I shall allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; …

stormclouds blocked the sunlight that had been shining through the south windows into the Nave and Quire, bathing the Chapel interior in cool morning sunlight. (You can see all the windows on the south side, as they are shown in my photograph above.)

A little background note here helps: three weeks ago, we celebrated the removal of the plastic sheeting that has covered the organ for months, protecting it amidst dusty renovations. So, I had been admiring the intricate patterns painted on the pipes while singing the first hymn, which preceded the Old Testament reading.

In an instant, the gleaming gold and royal colours of the beautifully-decorated organ pipes vanished; the sunlight on the stonework faded to nothing; and there was darkness in the chapel. It was as though heavenly lights had been switched off at that moment:

… because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Just as dramatically, the sun emerged shining through the clouds again, and the whole place brightened up as the Choir sang Psalm 22 with strength and clarity.

Later, the Minor Canon and Choir sang The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. John. This was the first time I have ever heard this as a choral work. It was wonderful, and so much more powerful than being narrated by one reader from the lectern. The crowd parts sung by the Choir were particularly effective. It was easy to appreciate how the mob was stirred up to call for Jesus’ death.

The sermon put the events of Holy Week in context. The role and motivations of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, were explained, as was the more ruthless background of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea, (who is presented in St. John’s account as a more sensitive character). Others in positions of responsibility, too, had reasons to seek to make an example of Jesus’ end. They used His Crucifixion as an advertisement, a public relations exercise, illustrating precisely what would happen to anyone who took on the authorities just as He had done. Can you imagine what the authorities must have thought of Jesus, riding into Jerusalem town on a donkey as he did on Palm Sunday to cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”, with crowds hailing him as the King of the Jews. He was the one who went on to overturn the tables of the moneychangers in dramatic fashion—and in the Temple, of all places!

Just as there was no room for His birth, there was no room for unrest to be instigated in, or by, His name, so Jesus’ death was seen as a clean, efficient way to rid the wider region of his trouble-making tendencies—that was the way to save the nation.

The service lasted an hour, and it was good that many tourists were able to attend.  From time to time during the remainder of the service, the winds whipped up a good tune around the west end of the Chapel. Strong winds make a pleasantly natural change from overhead aircraft noise!

Surprise, surprise—this afternoon, we had a sudden hailstorm, complete with flash of lightning and clash of thunder, that threw down a generous, sparkling collection of ice diamonds:

Diamonds on the doormat—hailstorm on Good Friday 21 March 2008

P.S.  Time to listen to A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall and a Highway of Diamonds by Bob Dylan 😉

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2 Comments »

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  1. It’s a brilliant sunny day here in the Bay Area. We had the Good Friday liturgy at noon, and we’re going back for a choral meditation on the Passion tonight.

    It’s a busy week to be a chorister…

  2. Hi Breen,

    Glad to hear your weather is pleasant. I remember one Easter Vigil where we shivered at the top of Sand Hill Road at midnight!
    .
    Today, we have had rain, more hail and some snow showers too—much to our excitement. People in Britain often place bets as to whether there will be snow at Christmas, but we are not used to betting on snow for Easter Day. We are hoping so, and the Met Office is forecasting severe weather of many kinds across a band of England for tomorrow.
    .
    Please wish all at St. Bede’s a Happy Easter from me.
    .
    P.S. Have you ever sung (or are you familiar with) a simple choral version of the St. John Passion as mentioned above? It was not the famous one by Bach, but was perfect for its place in yesterday’s Good Friday liturgy.


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