Good Friday (Bruce Dawe)

Many words flow past in the 2009 three-hour Good Friday observance, in scripture, prayer, preaching and song. Three things lodged to stay forever.

The choir of just five women (Pat, Denise, Leila, Anastasia and Gemma, accompanied by Colin) gave the very finest singing. The Reproaches by Thomás Luis de Victoria were especially beautiful.

Rev Dr Erica Mathieson’s sermon spoke of the love of God evident to us in the cross. She explained that God does not will us to suffer, but rather God wills us to love, which may mean that we suffer-part of what God is doing with the world, making it new, through love. Simple, yet profound and helpful. I recalled Joan Chittister’s book Welcome to the wisdom of the world, in which she draws on ‘Hindu wisdom, ‘ Buddhist enlightenment’, Jewish community’ and ‘Muslim submission’, but ‘Christian love‘. How often we, his followers, fall short, yet it was love that held Christ to the cross.

Shocking and more gut-wrenching to hear than simply to read was Bruce Dawe’s, "And a Good Friday Was Had by All" read for us by Dr Ian Barnes

You men there, keep those women back
and God Almighty he laid down
on the crossed timber and old Silenus
my offsider looked at me as if to say
nice work for soldiers, your mind’s not your own
once you sign that dotted line Ave Caesar
and all that malarkey Imperator Rex

well this Nazarene
didn’t make it any easier
really-not like the ones who kick up a fuss so you can
do your block and take it out on them
                            Silenus
held the spikes steady and I let fly
with the sledge-hammer, not looking on the downswing trying hard not to hear
over the women’s wailing the bones give way
the iron shocking the dumb wood.

Orders is orders, I said after it was over
nothing personal you understand-we had a
drill-sergeant once thought he was God but he wasn’t a patch on you

then we hauled on the ropes
and he rose in the hot air
like a diver just leaving the springboard, arms spread
so it seemed
over the whole damned creation
over the big men who must have had it in for him
and the curious ones who’ll anything if it’s free
with only the usual women caring anywhere
and a blind man in tears.

-Bruce Dawe. Sometimes gladness: collected poems, 1954-1982. Rev. edn. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1983, p.38.