I have often struggled with the purpose and focus of Good Friday. Good Friday was not part of my experience of Holy Week when I was a kid. When I really began to wrestle with and explore my faith on a deep level, I made Good Friday (and all of Holy Week) a priority to experience and be a part of. I remember one particular year in preparation for Good Friday, working with the small Episcopal church replant I attended in college, a member who was putting together the bulletins, wondering if the picture on the front was graphic and depressing enough.
That definitely caught me off guard.
I didn’t understand why she was so singularly focused on the pain, betrayal, sacrifice of Christ in that moment on the cross, in that moment of death. Didn’t we already know what happened? Shouldn’t we have joyful anticipation for what comes from that moment on the cross? Why would we focus on the darkness in this moment when we know that the light is coming? Yes, but…
We focus on Good Friday, and in particular the pain, betrayal, the ultimate sacrifice being made by Christ in this specific moment, because it is a foundational piece of our faith. Without Good Friday, there is no Easter Sunday. And, on Good Friday, we connect to the reality that life in this world is not always sunshine, rainbows, and butterflies. I was challenged with this in my Hospital Chaplaincy coursework in Seminary. My supervisor continually pushed me to look beyond the “happy” interactions, and connect to the pain, the unknowing, the fear and anxiety, the lack of light, present in many of the patients I interacted with. To connect to the Good Friday vibes that are present in every person and become an all-encompassing reality at moments in our life where we can’t see beyond that tortured body on the cross.
One patient in particular sticks in my mind: a young woman (19), 22 weeks pregnant, on hospital bed rest so her child could pass the 24 week viability threshold, with no one coming to visit, with a positive drug test for marijuana so if her child did come she wouldn’t get to keep it anyways (assuming it even beat the odds and survived). There was no light in her life at the moment (overwhelming stress from a domestic situation led to the early contractions and the marijuana use to try and stop them). The only light was this child she was carrying and even that was in danger. Sitting with her in this pain. Sitting with her in this state of anxiety and unknowing. Connecting with her even though I was the complete opposite of her in every way, in the reality of pain and fear and anxiety, I began to understand why Good Friday is so important, why holding Good Friday is so important. I didn’t try to fix her situation, I didn’t try to bring her light (at least not at first), I simply showed up every day to sit with her, check in on her, watch a little TV with her, and simply be with her so she knew she wasn’t totally, utterly alone. To sit with her in those Good Friday vibes, acknowledging, accepting, grief and pain.
This year, the Good Friday vibes are certainly known deeply in this age of Coronavirus. But, because of our experience and embrace of Good Friday as a central piece of our faith, we know how to lean into these vibes, we know how to lean into the experience of Good Friday, connecting with the reality of pain, anxiety, fear, unknowing, as a part of our shared faith experience, and as the precursor to something greater and more spectacular than we could’ve ever imagined when we do, finally, come together under one roof to celebrate the Risen Christ once more.
In God’s peace and love,