Category Archives: death

You want it darker

Night at Golgotha, 1869
Vereshchagin, Vasili Vasilievich (1842-1904). Russian. Medium: oil on canvas.

From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli,Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27: 45-46

Some call Good Friday the darkest day in history. Well, I suppose if you watched Jesus being crucified, it probably was a dark day. Truth is, there is darkness for people every single day. Anyone living in the middle of war and persecution, who is dying of a terminal illness and living in pain, anyone who wrestles with severe mental illness… and all those who are relegated to the sidelines and have to watch people they love go through this, well, those people are living in great darkness too.

I recently bought my first and only Leonard Cohen CD – You want it darker. I have mixed feelings about Cohen. He was a larger than life character throughout his life. Musically, I put him in the same category as Bob Dylan: fantastic poets who can’t carry a tune. Seriously, someone else should sing their songs. Still…

i love the concept of this album cover art

I’ve listened to Cohen’s title track on repeat and there’s something hypnotic about his voice. Reviewers of this particular CD said it was Cohen at his most honest, most raw. Knowing that he was dying as he recorded it gives extra weight to the words “I’m ready my Lord”.

Magnified, sanctified, be thy holy name
Vilified, crucified, in the human frame
A million candles burning for the love that never came
You want it darker
We kill the flame

These words take me right to the foot of the cross, watching Jesus in anguish as he cries out to God, crying out for the love that never came. It’s gripping. But the genius of Cohen’s lyrics is that he takes the story through history and to his own life:

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim

You want it darker…

Throughout all of this recognition and confession is the constant refrain “Hineni, hineni, I’m ready my Lord”. Cohen calls out the darkness in the world, acknowledging our part in killing the flame, making the world a darker place. He knew he’d lived a less than perfect life and he owned it. He also acknowledged the grace of God in all of that. He knew he was dying and he was ready.

At first listen, this is a pretty dark song, hopeless almost – except for that repeated refrain. If we are living as people who are ready, then we need to do what we can to keep the flame burning, to keep the million candles lit, to be the love that comes to those who need it. When you support Cyrus Centre with your financial gift, you are doing exactly that. Cyrus Centre brings a little light into the dark corners of our city streets where some of our forgotten and neglected youth find themselves. Remember that all donations up to $3000 will be matched! I hope you’ll join us and support this important ministry.

Get the details on how to give on our Service Info Page


O Death

carving at Mount of Olives

carving at Mount of Olives

soul is overwhelmed to the point of death… Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me… – Jesus in the garden

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? – Psalm 22:1


O, Death, O, Death, O, Death
Won’t you spare me over and over
Well what is this that I can’t see
With ice cold hands takin’ hold of me?

Well I am Death and the end is here…

Not exactly the most cheerful song but the whole point of us doing this service is to remember that the stuff that happened on Good Friday actually happened. And it was not cheerful.

The gospel accounts of Jesus praying in the garden vary only slightly. Matthew and Mark refer to Jesus as being overcome with sorrow and falling to the ground in prayer. Luke is the one who refers to Jesus being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground

When God is gone and the Devil takes hold

Who’ll have mercy on your soul?

a station of the cross from

a station of the cross from

They say that the only certainty in life are death and taxes and while some have managed to find ways to cheat taxes, no one cheats death. Except Jesus – but he still had to go through it and what a horrible death it would be. Beaten, whipped, thorns rammed on his head and nailed to a piece of wood. And then there’s that separation from God, from himself. Forsaken. No mercy.

O Death is an old American folk song that also goes by the title Conversations with Death. Some will recognize it from the Ralph Stanley cover on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. It was first recorded by country/blues banjo player Dock Boggs in the late 1920s. The original version is much longer than the Jen Titus adaptation we will be performing. We chose this version for a few reasons. I like the darkness of it, the growly bass voices and the anger in the instrumentation paired with the lonely, pleading voice. I think if you’re Jesus and you’re having a conversation with Death, Death is not going to be nice about it.

How do you imagine the voice of Death?