As we observe Good Friday today, I am very aware that some of us are very alone this year. Alone for a long weekend that often involves family gatherings and special dinners. Wondering how to gather, when we really cannot. Some are literally alone, in their homes with no one else. Some are alone emotionally, finding themselves in situations that do not offer comfort, support or safety. It is so hard to be alone. This post reminded me that while we walk alone in many ways, there is comfort in knowing others do too. Comfort in this strange thing we are sharing. We are together in this experience. We carry each other from afar. We walk together, whether we can express it or not. We are alone. And we are not.
Alone thou goest forth, O Lord,
in sacrifice to die;
is this thy sorrow naught to us
who pass unheeding by?
Our sins, not thine, thou bearest, Lord;
make us thy sorrow feel,
till through our pity and our shame
love answers love’s appeal.
This is earth’s darkest hour,
but thou dost light and life restore;
then let all praise be given thee
who livest evermore!
Give us compassion for thee, Lord,
that, as we share this hour,
thy cross may bring us to thy joy
and resurrection power.
This past Sunday, we sang this hymn at church. It is a beautiful and familiar tune, known as Bangor (an old Scottish tune of such popularity it was even mentioned in a Robbie Burns poem!). I was struck by the words this week. They are clearly about the lonely path Christ walked as he approached the cross on Good Friday, and are obviously appropriate for the beginning of Holy Week. What struck me, however, wasn’t so much that part of the story, but rather how these words could be applied to our own personal going forth journeys.
Every one of us walks a lonely path in some way, at some point in our life. It seems to me we spend a fair amount of time talking with, thinking about and celebrating the communities that walk with us. But there are those moments that are ours alone. That we share with no one. When we struggle to carry a heavy burden; sometimes feeling like it is an impossible task. Sometimes this weight is given to us by others. Foisted upon us, we carry it – lovingly, with pain, with compassion, with anger, frustration and kindness.
As I sang these words, I thought especially about those that carry burdens given by others. The burdens that for many reasons cannot be shared, maybe are not even ours to share. The burdens that feel like earth’s darkest hours. The story of Christ walking this lonely path becomes a heartening example of how a lonely struggle is not abnormal. There is comfort in this image. For when a burden cannot be expressed, sometimes knowing that others are also going through their own private struggle gives a kind of reassurance – a sense that we are not anomalies, but simply part of a silent community. And so, in this special way, we share the dark hour as we go forth alone.