Since He (Christ) took the most horrific death to redeem us, He showed that suffering and pain have great power. – E. A. Bucchianeri
This is a day of mourning for Christians, for it marks a sorrowful event in their history: the Crucifixion of Christ. It was the darkest day for all who have been touched by him, inspired by his teachings, and transformed by his presence. It must have been heart wrenching for those who adored him, and particularly painful to Mother Mary.
Crucifixion was a barbaric Roman custom: the nailing of a human body that was first whipped mercilessly until the back was bleeding and the flesh was out. This inhuman punishment was meted out to robbers and others convicted of crimes. In this instance, Roman soldiers are said to have derisively adorned the head of Jesus with a wreath of thorns. They inscribed in three languages, again in mockery, that Jesus of Nazareth was the king of the Jews. The torturing punishment was a public spectacle.
They say the cross was raised at 9 in the morning. A Roman soldier, perceiving Jesus in thirst, is said to have held a sponge soaked in wine, brought it up close to Christ to moisten his parched lips. We are reminded by this act that there can be kindness and goodness even in the midst of harshness and heartless cruelty. According to Luke, Jesus said, “Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit.” By three in the afternoon that day, the mortal frame of Jesus ceased functioning.
This was not just another instance of a custom by which the condemned were executed in the bad old days. It was, rather, a milestone of great moment in the history of humanity. There was something deeply moving and meaningful in what transpired, for it was the climax of a life that exemplified sacrifice in the best connotation of the word. The figure of Christ on the cross with a crown of thorns, with his face turned to a side, his arms stretched out, the limbs nailed to the cross: this has becme the symbol for whatever is peaceful, gracious, caring, and all that is implicit in the teaching of one who came to be seen as the embodiment of divine qualities in flesh and blood.
When Christians say Jesus died for our sins, it means much more than the horrific drama of that day of lamentation. It means that in some mystical way, our many trespasses will be forgiven if and when we take refuge in any symbol of the Divine.
I am not a Christian, but I have always felt that there is something profoundly serene in the aspect of Christ on the cross: a reminder, perhaps, that even when many in the world are blessed with comfort and convenience, mirth and gaiety, there are also many in pain and suffering. The crucifixion of Christ reminds me that the little that many of us do as service or charity or sacrifice to the less fortunate is paltry compared to the incredible pain that Christ in physical frame went through in his commitment to serve and save others: which means that I too should exert a little more.
The French call this day Vendredi Saint, and the Spanish Viernes Santo, meaning Holy Friday, and in German it is Karfreitag which has been interpreted as lamenting Friday. But in English it is Good Friday. Etymologists have had a tough time tracing the origin of the term. Some have suspected it is a modification of God’s Friday, God becoming good as in Good-bye which (according to some) is a contraction of God be with ye! However, The OED refers to a 13th century document wherein one reads the Latin phrase: die qui dicebatur bonus dies Veneris: day which is called good Friday.
In any event, according to one official Catholic publication, “There is, perhaps, no office in the whole liturgy so peculiar, so interesting, so composite, so dramatic as the office and ceremonial of Good Friday.” So on this holy day, to be followed by Easter, I convey my respectful thoughts for the day to all Christians.
Friday 25 March 2016