Holy Manna: April 7, 2023 (Good Friday)

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 18:1-19:42

One of the most stunning things from the funeral doings of Queen Elizabeth was the contingent of eight of her personal guards hoisting her coffin on their shoulders and processing it into the various cathedrals and chapels where the various prayer and memorial services were held. The reason it was so stunning (other than how smart the young men looked in their uniforms) is that her coffin weighed in at 250-300 kg… or 551-660 lbs due to its lead lining. This means that each man was shouldering between 68-82 lbs while navigating stairs and long aisles before setting it down gently on the catafalque. (If you want a video of what I am talking about, click here to see members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland carry it from the hearse and into St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.)

When I watched the Queen’s funeral in September, the young men bearing the coffin on their shoulders brought to mind Christ bearing his Cross on Good Friday. I looked up the weight of the Cross, and I got figures ranging from 250-300 lbs with the patibulum (horizontal bar) weighing 70-90 lbs. Jesus would have carried only this piece as the stipes (vertical bar) would have been fixed permanently to the ground at the site of the crucifixion. The flogging, scourging, and other beatings given to Christ would have weakened him severely, so Joseph of Cyrene had to help him carry the patibulum. (I will spare you the details of attaching Christ to the Cross as those are pretty gruesome.)

In addition to bearing the weight of the patibulum on his shoulder as he wound his way to Golgotha, Jesus bore the sins of the world upon him as he hung on the Cross. The figurative weight of that was massive, and it is an act of love for us that goes beyond the scope of leadership or anything we can ever comprehend.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP, p. 101)
-Jen McCabe