The Passion From Afar

This is an odd Good Friday.

Normally, many of us — including myself! — like to go to the Good Friday service and venerate the cross there and meditate together, as a whole congregation, about the sorrows of Christ’s Passion.

But this Good Friday is different.

Because of the Coronavirus outbreak, most of the world is stuck at home, unable to attend Good Friday services or celebrate the Triduum as we would like.

Yet, in a lot of ways, this strange Triduum mimics the first Triduum of the very first Passion. After all, when the authorities came to arrest Jesus in the middle of the night, the Apostles fled.

The Flight of the Apostles, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.
The Flight of the Apostles, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

And then they stayed hidden, possibly in the Hinnom Valley, waiting for things to get better.

The Hiding Place of the Apostles, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.
The Hiding Place of the Apostles, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

The problem? Things don’t seem to get better. In fact, things only seemed to get worse.

Jesus was condemned and sentenced to death.

Could there be anything else more worse than that?

The two pictures that I’ve displayed above are by James Tissot, who sought to illustrate the entire gospel in exacting detail. How exacting, you ask? Well, let’s just say he left his comfortable Parisian life to live in the Holy Land for ten years, just to illustrate the Life of Christ in the most accurate way possible. He painstakingly illustrated all of the major events in the Passion of Christ. He even painted the minor scenes, such as the disciples fleeing for their lives from the Garden of Gethsemane and the apostles milling about their hiding place in the Hinnom Valley, as I featured above.

But I want to show you one more picture for you to meditate on for this particular Good Friday, since it’s such a strange Good Friday.

Take a look at this picture…

The Disciples Having Left Their Hiding Place Watch from Afar in Agony, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.
The Disciples Having Left Their Hiding Place Watch from Afar in Agony, by James Tissot, c. 1886-94. Brooklyn Museum, New York, New York, United States.

It is a picture of the Crucifixion from the vantage point of the Apostles (save for John, who was with the Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross), who are hiding as far away as they dare.

But they still watch the Passion unfold from afar, and agonize among each other.

James Tissot writes the following about this particular artwork:

The time wears on, the hours of this fateful Friday pass slowly by, in suffering for Jesus, in anxiety for His disciples. After their first moment of terror they have come forth from their hiding place in the tombs of Hinnom.They climb up the Valley of Gihon and cautiously advance under cover of the walls of Herod’s Palace and can see the crowd surrounding Golgotha. Step by step they creep along, deeply moved by what they rightly imagine to be going on. By skirting along the height on the northwest of the town, they can look on from a distance at the gradual development of the mighty drama of the Cross.

This is truly an odd Good Friday! All of us feel far away from our Lord and perhaps just a little lost.

But Jesus is with us still, just as He promised us.

Even death on a cross can never stop Him from loving us.

So let us hold fast to this love and mourn Him from afar this time.

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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