“O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me” (Psalm 40:13)
With these words the sisters at Our Lady of the Angles Monastery in Crozet intone the office of Compline, the last worship service of the day before bed time. On Good Friday we can be especially attentive to the way God answered this prayer sounded through the ages not only on the lips of monks and nuns but in the hearts of all who find themselves in conflict with other people, within themselves, and with God. These two plaintive statements point to the deeper reality of the human condition that Jesus’ death on the cross lays bare: the fundamental rupture in human existence that alienates people from each other and God can only be repaired by God himself.
Indeed, on Good Friday as Jesus hung dying on the cross, God came to our assistance. He suffered the deepest depths of alienation, taking onto himself the sin of the world: all of the shame, powerlessness, helplessness, contempt, scorn, abandonment, greed, fear, and hate that rightfully belonged to generations past, present, and yet to come. Uncoerced, he freed us from the accretions of sin that obscured His image in each one of us, a feat no human could accomplish. Ironically, by taking on our ugliness and relieving us of its estranging burdens, he made it possible for us to see and be enlivened by the beauty of His love and the image of His beauty in one another—a beauty of centripetal, reconciling force that draws us closer to Him and each other.
On this day we can proclaim with the psalmist, “may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” (40:16b). Let us also offer our thanksgiving of praise: “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, Amen.”