Good Friday with The Man in Black

Two songs from the Man In Black, plus Psalm 88. The first song has been a favorite of mine for the last several years and never fails to make my eyes moisten. I thought of it today while praying Psalm 88 earlier today in the Liturgy of the Hours.

Psalm 88 is a lament in which the psalmist prays for rescue from the alienation of approaching death. Three times the psalmist issues a call to God and complains of the death that separates one from God. The tone is persistently grim. In both the psalm and the song above, a man is taking stock of his life and is not happy with what he’s made of the gift he was given. He has hurt people…himself…and God.

Lord my God, I call for help by day;
I cry at night before you.
Let my prayer come into your presence.
O turn your ear to my cry.

For my soul is filled with evils;
my life is on the brink of the grave.
I am reckoned as one in the tomb:
I have reached the end of my strength,

like one alone among the dead;
like the slain lying in their graves;
like those you remember no more,
cut off, as they are, from your hand.

Christ of St. John of the Cross, by Salvador Dali (1951)

You have laid me in the depths of the tomb,
in places that are dark, in the depths.
Your anger weighs down upon me:
I am drowned beneath your waves.

You have taken away my friends
and made me hateful in their sight.
Imprisoned, I cannot escape;
my eyes are sunken with grief.

I call to you, Lord, all the day long;
to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work wonders for the dead?
Will the shades stand and praise you?

Will your love be told in the grave
or your faithfulness among the dead?
Will your wonders be known in the dark
or your justice in the land of oblivion?

As for me, Lord, I call to you for help:
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face?

Wretched, close to death from my youth,
I have borne your trials; I am numb.
Your fury has swept down upon me;
your terrors have utterly destroyed me.

They surround me all the day like a flood,
they assail me all together.
Friend and neighbor you have taken away:
my one companion is darkness.

The second Cash song is one I’ve sung myself many, many times. I’d not heard this version before today, and seeing the video transported me back to my grandmother’s living room in South Dakota where this and similar songs were always heard during Sunday visits (she was a devout Lutheran). She had 8-track recordings of The Statler Brothers, and hearing them sing backup on this song made that memory more vivid on this Good Friday.

I realize this is all pretty grim and dark. Today is, after all, the blackest day in history for a follower of Christ. But Sunday is coming


For more information about Dali’s painting, visit here.


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