Today is Good Friday on the Julian Calendar. The gospels during the matins service prescribed to this day recall how Jesus’ closest friends betrayed Him and turned Him over to be crucified.
Around this same time, among the indigenous people of Ukraine, there are ancient folkloric customs associated with Great Lent—cultural expressions that deeply intuit the despair of death and sin, but also in anticipation of the triumph of life at Pascha. Folk songs, sung in small ensembles of dear friends and family, are first among these practices.
There is one song in particular—one I've heard and sung a thousand times—is called the "Sorrowful Mother." Deep down this song has always resonated with me, but having met with the parents of Black people gunned down for no good reason, its words have taken on a special meaning this year:
“The sorrowful mother stands beneath the cross. Crying, weeping, in tears proclaiming: ‘my Son, my Son, for what fault have you been lifted on the cross to suffer this hour? My son!’
‘I bathed you with my fine tears. I shielded you from your enemies, my Son! My Son, my Son, for what fault have you been lifted on the cross to suffer this hour? On the cross!’”
Indeed, the injustice 2000 years ago happened on the cross on Golgotha. It was Judas who took the silver pieces and Peter who turned his back. All who was left was the sorrowful mother.
This year, it’s an alleyway in Chicago, or a restaurant in Columbus, or a car on a shoulder in Brooklyn Center. Plenty of businesses profiting from the militarization of police, and all of us turning our backs. And yet, there’s still a sorrowful mother. There’s always a sorrowful mother.