Good Friday: travelling towards hope

By Willard Roth
April 2, 2010

The seventh and final installment in a series of 2010 Lent and Holy Week blogs from Willard Roth focusing on places of particular spiritual intensity and interest across Britain and Ireland.


Kenneth Leech, the Anglican spiritual and social theologian, records the question of Evagrius Ponticus (345-399) to an old desert father, “Tell me some piece of advice by which I might be able to save my soul.” The wise man answered, “Do not speak before you are asked a question.” Once again as I have journeyed with Jesus these forty days toward the cross I find myself listening more and speaking less. I ruminate on the mystery of cross, resurrection and atonement.

Back in 1982 I joined the Franciscan monks at St Mary of the Cross, Glasshampton, England, for Holy Week. The three hours beginning Friday at noon follows a traditional plan unique to Glasshampton for remembering the Lord’s passion. I wrote in my journal: “The commemoration is a moving happening: moving in body as well as in spirit. Dressed in white with red stole, Brother Alban guides the service. The monks prostrate before the altar. The procession moves outdoors following the wooden cross. We read scripture and sing hymns as we go. We make four stops and come back inside for the voluntary veneration: a kneeling in front of the cross, a kiss below the crucifix, a genuflection. Communion used the elements prepared yesterday and stored in the locker on the outer altar. It was given out simply. The three hours ended with evensong.”

During my after supper walk I heard the baas and bleats of scores of lambs prancing around their mothers. I sensed I was where the Irish poet Katharine Tynan (1861-1931) had written the sheep with their little lambs passed me by on the road; all in the April evening I thought on the Lamb of God.

I leave this sacred place with the blessing of the Society of St Francis for my continuing pilgrimage: May the life-giving cross be the source of all our joy and peace.

Bread for the World ( gifts us with an apt prayer from the Celtic oral tradition of the first millennium as we move through Holy Week to Easter:

God—the heart’s eternal spark.
You are the peace of all things calm
You are the place to hide from harm
You are the light that shines in dark
You are the heart's eternal spark
You are the door that's open wide
You are the guest who waits inside
You are the stranger at the door
You are the calling of the poor
You are my Lord and with me still
You are my love, keep me from ill
You are the light, the truth, the way
You are my Saviour this very day.

May that spark keep igniting global pilgrims of whatever tribe or people or nation, so that Light may shine in darkness wherever and evermore.

As I listened to hour-long sermons during childhood, most of the time quite attentively, the preacher would often conclude, “I have only covered the first page of my three-page outline, so I leave this subject with you…” So, to Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary pilgrims coming from the US** to Britain and Ireland in June 2010, I do the same. Let us ponder as we pack. A pilgrimage is a ritual journey with a hallowed purpose. A pilgrimage is not a vacation; it is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. Nothing will ever be quite the same again (Macrina Wiederkehr in Behold Your Life, p11).


The first article in this series is 'Iona remembered' (; the second is 'Celtic Christianity revisited' (; the third, 'Crossing many paths in Ireland' (; the fourth 'Glendalough - an awareness of ancient wisdom' (; the fifth 'Wales - land of saints, comrades and friends (, and the sixth ‘Iona, Coventry and hospitality in the city’ (

(c) Willard E. Roth is a retired pastor in Mennonite Church USA, having held many posts for the Mennonite church nationally and world wide. He has also been involved with the Academy of Parish Clergy (ACP), and has a specialist interest in journalism and communications.

** Willard Roth is co-leading, with Marlene Kropf, a Celtic Pilgrimage on behalf of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkart, Indiana. It will take place from 11-28 June 2010. For details, visit The Pilgrimage, which will move across Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England, is now fully booked.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.