Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Our collect today alludes to the "Paschal Mystery" which Jesus has established by the shedding of his blood. This mystery which we celebrate daily throughout the year in our Masses, Sacraments and Hours draws us "through the heavens" with Jesus to stand before "the throne of grace."
It is easy, on this most solemn occasion, to be distracted by the maudlin details of Jesus' suffering and death. The Franciscan tradition especially has recalled the shattering pain and humiliation Jesus suffered on that terrible day. Some writers will go over the top, asking "Would you or I endure such pain?" with the obvious, self-incriminating, negative answer.
But let's not take our eyes off what the Lord has done for us. None of the gospels show much interest in the gory details of Jesus' suffering; those details they provide have deep, revelatory meaning -- visible only to the eyes of faith. The crown represents not the pain in his scalp but the royal dignity of God's Son. The mocking catcalls of the crowd echo the glad salutes of a king. His cross is a throne; the criminals on his left and right are his courtiers. When Pilate seats Jesus on the Throne of Judgement he is taking his rightful place as the Judge of the Nations.
The Gospel of Saint John clearly describes Jesus as the high priest, presiding over the ceremony of his crucifixion. His seamless garment is the alb of the priest.
In his crucifixion, despite its horror, the disciple recognizes Jesus as the priest who passes through the heavens into the very Presence of his Father. He pleads with his life for our salvation. The same Gospel assures us that Jesus' prayer is heard because the Father has sent his "only beloved Son" to do just that.
Sadness is not quite the feeling of this day because we have seen Jesus do precisely what he wants to do, and precisely what he was sent to do. We might be appalled as we watch a fellow human being die in a most grisly fashion, but getting through that sickening sense of horror we see the brilliant glory of his love.
It is a gift freely given despite the fact that, from our side, it is unearned and undeserved. We had no claim on God's mercy. Except for his spirit moving in us, we would not have asked or expected mercy. It has flared before us like a burning bush and a pillar of fire, unimagined and unhoped for -- almost "too good to be true" but it is true.
Our response is silent worship. The Liturgy of Good Friday is a quiet event, without an entrance or recessional hymn. The presiding celebrant doesn't even greet the people with his customary, "The Lord be with you."
On this day we behold the wood of the cross on which is hung our salvation; oh come, let us adore the Priest who has entered the sanctuary with his own body and blood as the sin offering.