Friday, March 30, 2018

A Good Friday Meditation

This evening at All Saint's, we observed the solemnity of Good Friday in the worship service that is known as "Solemn Collects and Reflections", with the reflections being given by our Priests and Deacons.  I was asked to offer a reflection through the eyes of the Centurion who was present and overseeing the crucifixion of the Christ and the two thieves that afternoon.  This is a first person reflection, but offered as if the Centurion was speaking in the form of a letter that was written to his father, who himself was a retired Centurion.  Some license was taken as Scripture provides no "back story" on this man.

#  #  #  

  Gaius Longines, a Centurion in the service of Tiberius, and the citizens of Rome.  I greet you Crasius on a day that has been like none other since my cohort was posted to this dour corner of the Empire.

  As you’ve long known, I accepted a commission as a Centurion in civic duty, desiring to serve the greater glory of Rome.  In my heart I had always dreamt of driving out the barbarians as you did, from our far frontiers.  instead, my cohort was posted to the Tenth Legion in Judea.  Rather than expanding the frontier, my cohort now works to maintain the tenuous peace between Governor Pilate and this rabble population.  I have found myself to be far more an executioner of common criminals than a soldier, combating worthy adversaries.  Yet today is difficult to understand, which is why I write you, my esteemed father.

  Over the past few days, Jerusalem has been groaning as Jews from throughout the province have been converging on the city in preparation for one of their observances.  Along with their faithful, thieves and other criminals arrived to prey on the unsuspecting.  Two such culprits, along with an insurrectionist named Barabbas were placed in our custody to await execution. Yet this morning, temple leaders delivered up a fourth man, one allegedly claiming to be the King of the Jews.  Pilate took an interest in this man and determining that he’d committed no capital crime, ordered him beaten for being a nuisance.  Yet those religious leaders insisted that he’d be put to death, and demanded clemency for the insurrectionist.  Pilate, being a shrewd man, acquiesced to their demands, fearing a riot.

  A short time later, the three were delivered to my custody for execution and seeing this “king”, I drew back with a deep horror.  He wasn’t simply beaten, one member of the cohort whipped him with the flagrum while another severely wounded his head with those dreaded capparis spinosa thorns, leaving him a seething walking wound.  I’ve seen the horrors of battle, yet this churned my constitution and I was compelled to avert my gaze. Beaten and bruised, I was amazed to see him standing silently, without a sound.  It became clear after setting off for the execution site that this wretch would die enroute, so I compelled an onlooker to carry this “king’s” cross.

  On the brow of the hill, each had a placard affixed to their cross, according to Roman law, stating their name and crime.  As the day wore on, it was punctuated by cries, curses and the jeering contempt of passersby; it wasn’t so with this “king”.  I’m acquainted with the language of Jerusalem, and what this Nazarene was saying intrigued me.  He was asking forgiveness for my century who crucified him.  He offered comfort to a thief and later, let out an emotional cry to his god. 

  The afternoon progressed as a gathering darkness seemed to encircle and swallow Jerusalem.  The man spoke of his thirst.  I’ve never considered myself a compassionate man, yet I ordered the soldiers to share a drink of their beverage.  This seemed to revive him as he raised his head spoke once more, then expired before us.  In my heart, I was struck.  An innocent man was executed today, but he was much more than one not guilty of any crime.  He was as a son of the gods, or perhaps the very Son of God.

  At any case, his remains now lie in a sealed tomb A Guard mount is watching over it to see that no mischief occurs or his body disturbed.


No comments: