Skip to comments.The Holiday Hallmark Can't Handle
Posted on 04/14/2006 10:56:32 AM PDT by NYer
Every year on Good Friday, I notice a peculiar feeling. When Im out and about, riding the bus or walking past a store, I feel a strange disconnect between myself and the world around me.
Outside, its an ordinary day. The streets are busy, people are buying and selling, there are families in the parks and planes in the air. Its springtime in Atlanta, and already the earths beauty is beginning to be seen. Impossible to Adapt An Enduring Sign
Inside, things are different. I feel a sense of loss, a sense of a great drama taking place. This is the day on which we commemorate the Crucifixion of Jesus. I cannot help thinking about it, at least from time to time. In the evening, my wife and I will go to church for a Tenebrae service, somber and sometimes even harsh. When its over, the worshipers will leave in silence, totally unlike any other service of the year.
My awareness of Good Friday makes the very ordinariness of the city and the suburbs seem bizarre, remote, almost unreal. I have my mind on profound and solemn things; to some extent I am even mourning with Jesus first disciples. The world around me takes no notice, utterly none. And that is as it should be.
Good Friday is the one Christian holiday that the wider culture, even in America, has not taken up. It is the one holy day whose Christian significance cannot be bleached out to leave a commercially viable residue. Christmas can be for children and families, for shopping, for feasting. Easter can be bunnies and baby chicks, the newness of spring and a whole lot of chocolate. Even a couple of days marked out to honor saints in some Christian traditions Valentine, Patrick have been pretty much entirely taken over by a culture of romance and hedonism, sex and shopping.
Not this day. There is nothing marketable about Good Friday. Suffering, sacrifice, injustice, betrayal whats to celebrate? Whats to shop for? Who could pig out on a day like that?
The absolute impossibility of adapting Good Friday to consumer culture is most evident in the fact that even the greeting-card industry, which seems capable of churning out more or less appropriate little notes for every conceivable religious event and life occasion, has nothing for today. Can you imagine it?
Because He bled and died,There is simply no way for a culture devoted to lightweight enjoyment and superficial relationships to come to terms with Good Friday. It is, in a sense, the last bulwark of genuine Christian spirituality against the sea of pop religion that has overwhelmed the American churches. This is our day. Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and Nashville cant take it away from us because they have no idea what to do with it.
Were all choked up inside.
Its not a lovely day,
But I still hope youre okay.
Wishing you and yours a joyless, grave,
and yet oddly hopeful Good Friday.
Yet this day represents the central mystery in the religion that many want to claim as Americas own. Not only did God become a mortal man, Christianity maintains, but He went all the way through with it, even unto death. And not just any death: the Son of God died unjustly at the hands of a worldwide empire that used every means at its disposal to suppress insurgents. A death by torture, a death of shame, a death of horror.
Nor was it solely that, we claim, one more crucifixion among so many hundreds. We say God took on this death in order to give the world life. We say God knew suffering and tragedy so that we might never more feel that we suffer alone. We say God washed away our sins in the blood of Him Who was God made flesh.
There is no greeting card, no trinket, no wrapping paper to celebrate that. Here grief and giving, loss and love, sorrow and salvation mingle in a way that calls forth the most penetrating efforts of human art and intellect to portray and understand. Here is a mystery that is profound beyond cheapening, beyond compromising. It is our day, beyond any cultures ability to absorb and control.
Good Friday is an enduring sign of Christianitys maladjustment to the world. Jesus died as the ultimate outsider to power, success, honor, and prosperity. Every time we try to make our religion somehow compatible with those values that is to say, every day we live this human life the Cross of Good Friday will stand, in its solemnity, its poverty, and its grief, as the final roadblock to our desire to be conformed.
Good Friday also keeps us mindful of the ultimately paradoxical nature of Christian faith. This day of betrayal and death and grief commemorates what we believe to be our source of life and joy. Day-to-day culture thrives on simple explanations, straightforward accounts. Jesus claim that whoever loses his life will save it (Mk 8:35) makes no sense in that culture, and Good Friday is a lasting rebuke to our desire to dumb down Gods ways to the level of our security and comfort.
Good Friday keeps me honest in the world. Its a day when I cant simply be an American consumer, when I cant just walk down the street and be one of the oblivious crowd, busy but satisfied with my own goals and values. It points me toward another reality, a painful yet life-giving reality, the reality of God. It wakes me up. It reminds me that if I, like the Apostle Paul, am always carrying Jesus dying around in my body (2 Cor 4:10), then there must be something of Good Friday in every day.
Impossible to Adapt
An Enduring Sign
I was most privileged this morning to attend, for the first time, a Maronite liturgy entitled the Signing of the Chalice. It is so different from the other liturgies. Prayers normally chanted are spoken - there is no music. There is no Allelulia before the reading of the Gospel. Even the consecration is different in that the priest asks our heavenly Father to consecrate the Body and Blood. Only the priest takes communion. It is a very ancient liturgy. It culminates with a special blessing for those present who have witnessed it.
Good Friday services this evening, following our meatless community meal. A Blessed Easter to all!
That sounds like a wonderful liturgy.
Good article. Thanks for the ping.
Nothing like left-wing love and tolerance!
Preserved your little sermon for posterity.
Why so hateful????So what if people believe in something you don't...Liberals,left-wingers,feminists are always screaming for their right to believe the way they want...Hitler was a left-winger,Stalin was a left-winger,Mao was a left-winger..These men had the same belief that liberals have..So,if you want to say that Christians cause all the problems ,take another look at your heroes..Murdered millions of innocent people and you liberals don't seem to mind that....
When you care enough to zap the very least.
LOL! There's a job for you at Hallmark. :)
I think Hallmark would slap me with a lawsuit before extending a job offer! :-)
Welcome to Free Republic! - where freedom of speech and religion both prevail.
According to the patriarchal web site .....
"The Anaphora of the Apostles (also known as III Peter and by the Syriac word Sharrar), which the Maronite Church shares in common with the Church of Edessa, is the oldest Anaphora in the Catholic Church, and is still found in adapted form as the Anaphora of the Signing of the Chalice on Good Friday.
The Church of Antioch was the ancient See of Peter and developed its liturgy with influences from the Church of Jerusalem. The Maronite Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles represents the oldest tradition of the Church of Antioch. St. John Chrysostom took this Anaphora with him to Constantinople and became the basis of the Byzantine liturgy. As heir to the Patriarchate of Antioch, the Maronite Church represents the Antiochene liturgy in its fullness. Thus, the Maronite Church, in its prayer life, preserves the way of worship of the Apostles and their earliest disciples. "
pravknight - thought of you last night. It was one of our Melkite parishioners who was chosen to chant the gospel during the washing of the feet. Father complimented him on it. He did a good job :-)
It really bothers you, doesn't it?
There is a reason that you are unable to show a calm, non-hysterical attitude towards Christianity. Afterall, if it is silly nonsense then what difference could it possibly make to you what people who believe it think or do? What is it about Christianity that makes people like you ( an admirer of Noam Chomsky?!) to become so unhinged?
"Good Friday is the one Christian holiday that the wider culture, even in America, has not taken up..."
I'm kind of conflicted here. While I would have people realize Christ died so that they may live, I just can't see a downside to a holy day that can't be perverted into some consumer orgy.
I just returned from stations of the cross, otherwise I might be compelled to say some unkind words to the bozo upthread.
Instead I think I will spend some time in prayer and meditation before returning to services tonight.
Services here have come and gone. I also spent 2 1/2 hours watching the service from Rome. Still, all I hear right now is my typing and nature.
It needs to become a federal holiday in the US and applied to the 25 or so states that give it no status at all.
I just emailed this essay to my very pagan young secretary Ann who came in today, said "Happy Good Friday" in a sort of hesitant voice and asked, what do you do on Good Friday anyway? I said, I go to Church, want to come? She said, "No" I'm sort of afraid of Church. I've known her since she was three and she had no religious experience at all in her up bringing. So in the service, when we prayed for those who do not believe, I listed Ann.