Silence and belief

Good Friday in Haiti:

Dear Beloved in Christ on this Good Friday in Haiti:

I have been ordained for 13 years, and for 13 years, I have read the Gospel on Good Friday. Whenever we get to the words, “and he breathed his last,” every single time, my heart catches in my throat and I always am glad for the rubric that mandates silence at this point, because I simply cannot go on. In that silence, every single time, my soul cries out, “I believe! I believe!”

Today in Haiti, I needed that silence even more. This has been a hard Lent here. We are surrounded by death, an assault on the soul; by  devastation and ruins, an assault on the eyes; by the stench of death and unclean bodies and raw sewage, an assault on the nose; by the uncertainty of the future we face, an assault on our psyches.

So many times since Jan. 12, every Haitian and everyone who loves Haiti has been tempted to crumple under the weight of this awfulness, moments when all we have wanted to do is simply curl up in a ball and pretend the earthquake never happened. There have been times when the fear and uncertainty were so overwhelming that many of us have wanted, for just a moment, to be like Peter and deny the truth that is before our eyes.

That moment of silence in the Gospel, that moment when we heard again that Jesus had breathed his last, today was filled with heartache for all those who 11 weeks ago breathed their last as well. At the open-air worship space that now serves as Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port au Prince, with the ruins of our beloved Cathedral facing us, we could not escape those deaths or the death of our old way of life. We had to face that death square on. The darkness that descended on Jerusalem 2,000 years ago seemed to descend on Haiti again, just as it did on Jan. 12. In that moment, I think, all of us had our hearts in our throats, and all of us were glad for that moment of silence, so that we could swallow hard and concentrate on the promise of the resurrection, on the promise of new life that we have in the Risen Lord.

And then, when the choir sang, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” the tears formed in my eyes and my heart came back into my throat. When the choir sang, “Were you there when they nailed him to the tree,” I know that many of us thought of those who were caught in the ruins on that terrible day, and for so many days afterwards, praying to be rescued. When the choir sang, “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb,” I know that all of us thought of the hundreds of thousands who have been buried here, of the many are still entombed in the ruins. By that point, I had to stop singing, I had to swallow my heart again, I had to wipe away those tears.

This Good Friday in this place was almost overwhelming. Even though I always feel the pain of the day personally, even though I always feel deep grief, today was the most intense Good Friday I have ever experienced. It was more real, more concrete, more visible, more heart-wrenching, than ever before. I think Good Friday for me will never be the same.

With blessings and prayers,


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About Lauren Stanley

All my life, it seems, I’ve been on mission. And it’s all my mother’s fault. You see, when I was a child, my mother was adamant: We were to help those in need, those who had less than we did. We were to speak for those who could not speak, feed those who had no food, give water to those who were thirsty.