Some of you are familiar with Evelyn Underhill who was an English writer on mysticism and the spiritual life, who died in 1941. More than being just a writer, she was also a practitioner, a person of deep prayer, and you feel the depth of her prayer through her writing.
In one place (The Light of Christ), she talks about how first appearances can be deceiving. She talks about how a friend might suggest you check out a particular church—it has beautiful stained glass windows, for instance. And so, you approach this church, but from the outside, all you can see are windows that look pretty much alike—they’re all sort of dull and dark, thick, and grubby. But then, as she describes it, “Then we open the door and go inside—leave the outer world, enter the inner world—and the universal light floods through the windows and bathes us in their colour and beauty and significance, shows us things of which we had never dreamed, a loveliness that lies beyond the fringe of speech.” She goes on to say that this is a little like our understanding of God. We cannot understand God from the outside, but understanding comes when we enter in.
All Souls is a perfect place to begin to understand some of the mysteries of Good Friday. We are that kind of church from the outside—our windows look sort of ugly and uninteresting, until we come in, and then there’s a whole other world going on.
This day is like that. From the outside, it appears to be named incorrectly. After all, what is “good” about an innocent man, a prophet, and healer and teacher, being killed for no reason other than the fear and anxiety of the religious rulers of his day? But from the inside, from the standpoint of faith, we begin to understand that Jesus has given himself on the cross. What may appear on the outside as failure, will be turned into triumph.
The Good Friday perspective is one that can help us through the dark times. Especially when we only see darkness, when we don’t feel God’s presence, when our soul cries out “Why have you forsaken me?” a Good Friday perspective can remind us that if we go through, if we go deeply into, if we allow God to go with us, then we will move from outside, in and things will look different.
With eyes to see clearly, with faith to perceive the true nature of things, a Ninth century writer was able to sing praise on this day. Theodore of Studios wrote:
How splendid the cross of Christ! It bring life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree had destroyed us [in the Garden of Eden], a tree now brought us life.
May God give us the faith of Good Friday, faith to see beyond appearances, faith even to enter into death, so that we may be brought to life again.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.