Friday 30 March 2018
The entombment of Christ, 1602–04. Musei Vaticani, Rome.
Good Friday. Day of Fast and Abstinence.
Isaiah 52:13–53:12. Ps 30(31):2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25. Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9. John 18:1–19:42.
Father, I put my life in your hands—Psalm 30(31):2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25.
Anna is an interesting person in the gospel.
At different times in our lives, we will relate to practically all the people in the passion story. Sometimes, we run away from those who need us, as the disciples did. Other times, we will be as faithful and brave as the women who stood at the foot of the cross. Sometimes, we will want to wash our hands as Pilate did. Other times, we will step in and get our hands dirty as Simon of Cyrene did.
There is a part of us that resembles Joseph of Arimathea who kept his faith secret because he was afraid. He was an open man; he loved to listen to Jesus. He also wanted to ensure that Jesus was buried with dignity. For Joseph, Jesus never stopped being a person. Caravaggio paints him as a tender figure, looking at us, seeming to ask for our help.
Caravaggio grew up as a street kid. He was familiar with grime and squalor of every kind. He had seen no shortage of dead bodies, covered in blood, or injuries or disease.
Yet he shows the body of Jesus as unlike any of that. It has a strength and purity. It has lost none of its vigour. Even in death, Jesus is seen as a source of hope. Around him, his friends are alive in their grief. Indeed, it is rare to find as picture of death that is so completely full of life.
The death of Jesus is, indeed, at the heart of understanding all human life. St Ignatius loved the prayer called the Anima Christi.
It asks ‘water from the side of Christ, wash me. Passion of Christ, strengthen me.’