A Good Friday Practice: The Reproaches

The Reproaches (the Improperia) are a set of statements that Jesus says from the cross to his people. Dating from the Middle Ages, they were lost in the Reformation to churches in our tradition but have been reclaimed by both Anglicans and Presbyterians. They are a sombre call to reflect on how we live on the earth with each other. At the start of the contemporary Presbyterian liturgy, three times it is said “Behold the cross on which was hung the salvation of the whole world.” The people respond, Come, let us worship each time and the Reproaches begin:

Jesus speaks
O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

First Reproach
I brooded over the abyss,
with my words I called forth creation:
but you have brooded on destruction,
and manufactured the means of chaos.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Second Reproach
I breathed life into your bodies,
and carried you tenderly in my arms:
but you have armed yourselves for war,
breathing out threats of violence.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Third Reproach
I made the desert bloom before you,
I fed you with an open hand:
but you have grasped the children’s food,
and laid waste to fertile lands.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Fourth Reproach
I abandoned my power like a garment,
choosing to dwell within your unprotected flesh:
but you have robed yourselves in privilege,
and chose to despise the abandoned.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Fifth Reproach
I would have gathered you to me as a lover                                                                                                                                                and shown you the ways of peace;
but you desired security,
and you would not surrender yourself.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Sixth Reproach
I have torn the veil of my glory,
transfiguring the earth:
but you have disfigured my beauty,
and turned away your face.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Seventh Reproach
I have laboured to deliver you,
and delighted to give you life:
but you have delighted in bloodshed,
and laboured to bereave the world.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Eighth Reproach
I have followed you with the power of my spirit,
to seek truth and heal the oppressed:
but you have been following a lie,
and returned to your own comfort.

O my people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you?
Holy God, holy and awesome, holy and intimate,
Have mercy on us.

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, kyrie eleison.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

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