Trust In The Lord
Published: April 16, 2009
Deacon William W. Keeling, right, holds the Pascal candle, the preeminent symbol that Christ is the light of the world, for Father Gregory Goolsby during the service of light that begins the Easter Vigil service. (Photo by Jayna Hoffacker)
As we approach Easter, I find my favorite moments are included in “A Meditation on the Seven Last Words of Christ,” which St. Thomas Aquinas Church celebrates on Good Friday afternoon.
This liturgy is one in which I can pray with others, sing songs and have time for private meditation. The liturgy of the seven last words of Christ provides all of those elements, in simple and profound ways.
The songs are simple, yet extraordinarily beautiful. They are chants.
The first chant calls us to pray with Jesus. “Stay here and keep watch with me. The hour has come. Stay here and keep watch with me. Watch and pray.” And we watch and pray with Jesus for more than two hours—praying together in song and silent meditation.
For me, this liturgy captures elements of our universal church’s past. The mediation includes mostly chants, sung in English and Latin, which, when sung repeatedly, provide an ephemeral feeling. “Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est. Where charity and love are found, there is God.” The words themselves bring the melody to my mind.
The last words of Christ are actually seven short phrases spoken by Christ on Calvary, words that come not from any one Gospel, but from all the Gospels. The first word sets the tone: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
I particularly appreciate the opportunity for extensive quiet. I ponder on the torment Jesus suffered and on God’s love for us. I pray for my family and for me. I pray for all, knowing that it is through the great gift of the death and resurrection of our Lord that we are called to be with him in heaven.
This year brings me to this liturgy with remembrances and prayers for my wife, Cindy, who passed away in January. I think of her battle with cancer as I reflect on Christ’s journey to Calvary. She fought her fight praying all the while—as did Jesus. The seven words’ liturgy gives me the opportunity to prayerfully reflect upon Cindy’s life, our life, and her new life in heaven. And I rejoice in knowing that she is joined with her father and her mother, who passed away the day after Cindy.
The liturgy ends with Jesus’ last word: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” With those words, Jesus inclined His head and died. The final chant follows: “Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum. All peoples, praise the Lord.” A group prayer then resounds with the joyous proclamation: “I know I will see how good God is while I am still alive. Trust in the Lord. Be strong. Be brave. Trust in the Lord.”
The liturgy has ended. I am at peace. My heart and soul are with my Lord. I am calm, yet uplifted. I am joyous in Cindy’s resurrection—now with the Lord, and her mother and father.
Stan Kalisch and his late wife, Cindy, have been a part of St. Thomas Aquinas Church for more than 25 years. He currently heads the sacristan ministry, is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and is a member of the Liturgy Commission. He is a former chairperson of the St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Council.