Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday: Grief, Compassion, and Hope

Our Good Friday liturgy helps us bear and work through the weight of grief that we experience as we listen to the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. It is one point in the church year when profound grief is acknowledged and expected, even as we live in the knowledge of the Easter story and anticipation of a joyful celebration of the resurrection.

The grief we experience when we think of Christ, God Incarnate, on the cross is an elemental grief that contains all our other particular forms of grief. What we say and do on Good Friday in response to the Passion Gospel can help us find our way through our grief for the living things on our warming planet and can help us form and sustain a holy, healthy response to climate change.

For people paying attention to what is happening, the beauty of springtime can be bittersweet as we stand to lose 25-50% of species this century from habitat destruction, pollution, and global warming and ocean acidification. (See the book The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert for a good overview of the situation; a short and clear discussion is in this post from Dr. Jeff Masters.) Not knowing how much longer the flowers, trees, and birds that we love will be found where we live or anywhere on earth for that matter brings some heartbreak along with the delight in seeing them again after a long winter. And of course we have grief for people who have already suffered from drought, fire, floods, sea-level rise, and other effects of climate change.

The third of the Solemn Collects asks for the cry of those in misery and need to come to God; it also prays for God to “give us…the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us.” Gathering our strength and doing whatever we can to prevent and relieve the human misery that results from environmental degradation is the only choice we have as followers of Christ. Choosing to acknowledge the problems we face and working to address them with so little evidence that we can succeed is where we draw on our faith and our hope.

Choosing to act out of compassion allows us to get out from under the weight of our grief. Drawing on our faith for strength, we find energy for the work ahead. A response rooted in compassion is a holy and healthy response to our grief.

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