Peter J. Leithart on crucifixion and beauty on a Friday afternoon:
Roman crucifixion was gruesome. There was no rulebook, so full rein was given, as Martin Hengel has written, to “the caprice and sadism of the executioners.” Some Romans denounced its cruelty. “That plague” was Cicero’s description. Most were horrified, averted their eyes, and kept their tongues. We know Caesar crucified slaves, but he never refers to crosses or crucifixions in any of his writings, and Hengel tells us that “no ancient writer wanted to dwell too long on this cruel procedure.” The gospels provide the most detailed account we have of a Roman crucifixion.
Also today, Samuel Kaldas on a Coptic Good Friday:
A group of elderly Egyptian men in white robes crowds around a lectern, upon which sits a dusty tome. The eldest moves his finger slowly across the open page as they chant, crawling from letter to letter of the Coptic script. One of them is holding a pair of cymbals, another, a triangle. At certain points in the tune, they begin to play, completing their piece with a few dramatic strikes, after which the chant settles back into a gentler, more solemn tone, unaccompanied by the instruments’ metallic voices. With the occasional exception of a microphone or projector screen, this scene has not changed much in more than a thousand years.