This Easter has been a bit of a new experience for me. For the first time (I think) I attended a church service of meditation on Good Friday afternoon.
Someone I met on Good Friday evening talked about going down to the pub and going out for a meal to “get in the swing of Easter”. Good for them – and I resisted the temptation to suggest that the way to get “into the swing” of Easter on Good Friday is to grieve.
The Good Friday meditation service reminded me that an essential part of the Easter experience is the grieving, the re-hearing of the awful moments of Jesus’ death. The words of Isaac Watt’s hymn “When I survey the wondrous cross” sum it up very well:
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
We finished with that hymn on Friday, with its ending entreaty:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
It is only through all this grieving that we have the joyous catharsis on Sunday morning when the tomb is found empty.
Another new experience this Easter was being in a choir. We spent many weeks rehearsing three beautiful pieces for the Good Friday service.
‘Wash me throughly’ causes some spellchecking usually. It is actually “throughly” rather than “thoroughly”. It was written by Samuel Sebastian Wesley, who was the grandson of Charles Wesley. He was a Victorian organist and composer. My copy of ‘Wash me throughly’ was wrapped in brown paper with copper script hand-writing on the cover. Quite a museum piece. The song is rather intricate. It goes down when you expect it to go up and up when you expect it to go down – it has long notes where you expect short notes and short notes where you expect long notes. But the overall effect is wonderful – especially in the Good Friday setting.
We also sang ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’ by Gabriel Fauré, arranged by John Rutter, and the wonderful spiritual song ‘Were you there?’
I hadn’t heard ‘Were you there?’ until we started rehearsing it. It is a most wonderful song. You can hear it (performed by a mass Welsh Male voice choir) by clicking below.
After these moving, rather sombre tunes, we moved to the brashly loud and extravagant ‘Hallejujah Chorus’ for the Easter Sunday service this morning. That is quite a thing to sing. It’s bit like a vocal machine gun, but no less wonderful for that.