But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.
A Word of Hope
It is Good Friday, the climax of the turbulence of Holy Week. For me, it is a day when I can always set aside a time of meditation, usually after the silence following a Good Friday Service, but I don’t meditate in silence. I listen to Richard Wagner’s “Good Friday Spell” (or “Good Friday Music”) which falls at the end of Act III, Scene One of the opera, Parsifal.
Among the themes which are explored in Parsifal are self-renunciation, compassion, the hope for resurrection, all seen through the eyes of the young Arthurian Knight as he searches for the Holy Grail. The haunting music of the Good Friday Spell reflects the emotions that accompany all of these themes; the essence of the passion of the Christ.
The composer, in his autobiography, recalls the occasion of his inspiration for the opera: “…on Good Friday I awoke to find the sun shining brightly for the first time in this house: the little garden was radiant with green, the birds sang, and at last I could sit on the roof and enjoy the long-yearned-for peace with its message of promise. Full of this sentiment, I suddenly remembered that the day was Good Friday, and I called to mind the significance this omen had already once assumed for me when I was reading Wolfram’s [epic poem] Parzival.”
Though the name Jesus is never mentioned in Parsifal’s libretto, (He is called the Redeemer) the opera presents all that Jesus was and is in the person of the young Knight whose actions reflect the life and purpose of the man who was to become the Savior. Foremost among the acts of the Christ, Parsifal displays compassion, seen as the highest form of human morality. He does retrieve the Holy Grail, the symbol of Jesus’ compassion for all, but along with it he rescues the Holy Lance mentioned in the above scripture, used by the Roman soldiers to pierce his side; the reminder of the price universal compassion cost the man who hung on the cross.
These along with all of the other symbols of Holy Week; the Crown of Thornes, the Crucifix, the burial shroud, culminated on this day of despair, are what my mind sees as I allow the Good Friday Spell to direct my thoughts; the art of music becoming my reality.
Wagner further explains his own reality: “Art can show that the symbols which religions would have us believe literally true are often figurative. Art can idealize those symbols, and so reveal the profound truths they contain.”
You Tube is a good source for many orchestral versions of “Good Friday Spell”. It’s about 10 minutes long. Perhaps it could inspire your own meditations on the Redeemer and the profound price he paid.
May the significance of this day remind us that compassion for all comes with a cost and may the example of the strength of Jesus fortify our own quest for his Holy truth.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare