This text was originally published as part of Ad Cenam Agni, a 2023 virtual Lenten Retreat hosted by the Abbot's Circle.
As the beginning of the dramatic second act of the Good Friday liturgy, two priests carrying a veiled crucifix emerge with unshod feet into the sanctuary. And in the name of the Lord they sing, “My people, what have I done to you?” Three times Christ reproaches us; three times He rehearses all His benefits and all our mysterious ingratitude. He led us out of slavery and fed us with miraculous food and ushered us into the promised land, and we prepared a cross for Him.
There is no answer to His question. We have no excuse for our ungrateful rejection of His kindness. The liturgy’s only answer to His reproaches is to beg for mercy, from the Greek East to the Latin West; that is, the whole world bends the knee in homage and seeks pardon from the Crucified. There are no extenuating circumstances, no exculpating ignorance. And therefore the only chip we have to bargain with is God’s favorite: He is merciful and a lover of mankind.