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PostThe Crucifixion; Thoughts for Good Friday (David Duggan, USA, 04/03/15 12:34 pm)
It is just past 1:30 PM Central Time, which, if Jesus had been crucified in this time zone would be the mid-point of His three hours on the cross. Likely He would have by now uttered four of the seven last words from the cross: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do," "Son, behold thy mother, mother behold thy son," "Today you will be with me in paradise," and "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
I have just returned from the Stations of the Cross service at the Episcopal parish church closest to my home in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. I have partaken of the reserved sacrament, consecrated at last night's Maundy Thursday service: "This is my body, broken for thee." Earlier I had had a more private observance of this
most holy of days in the Christian calendar, watching Son of God, the 2014 movie produced by Roma Downey (of "Touched By an Angel" fame). It has been nearly two decades since I wept so uncontrollably. The depiction of Jesus's betrayal, trial, death and burial in Son of God far eclipsed that in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which I found almost cartoonish in its brutality. The roles of Pilate and Mary (played by Downey) were also closer to Scripture. If I could find any fault it was in its portrayal of the Resurrected Christ as some sort of back-lit ghost. As John Updike wrote: "Make no mistake: if He rose at all it was as His body. If the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall."
Twenty-three years ago, I wrote the following, and in a sense having it published changed my life; it gave me a second (or third) career as a writer of devotional essays, some now re-published in Glimpses of Grace, Reflections of a Life in Christ. Perhaps WAISers, whatever their stripe, will find it meaningful:
The Meaning of Good Friday
By David G. Duggan ©
More than any other church holiday, Good Friday stirs up memories of its predecessors. Sure, I remember past Christmases and Easters (and maybe even a few Pentecosts), but for the most part, the secular co-option of those holidays has diminished their religious effect on me. Bunnies and Santa Clauses have supplanted the Infant Savior and the Risen Christ.
But thankfully, the popular culture can do little with Good Friday. There's something about an execution that sobers all of us, even if the networks want to broadcast them live from the gas chamber. Samuel Johnson wrote how the sight of the gallows focuses our attention completely, but even if the cross is not likely to be my ultimate fate, seeing its stark form reminds me how I have enjoyed another year in God's kingdom, still falling short of His expectations of me.
Perhaps that is why I remember Good Fridays so vividly: the elderly priest in the near-deserted church, who coughed through two-and-one-half hours of the three hours on the cross and finally said he couldn't go any further; hearing the Bishop of Atlanta beg our prayers for the latest serial murders; hearing the 33 bells toll at Trinity Church, Wall Street, in my 33rd year and wondering what I had done with my life; donating blood in a symbolic gesture; awakening from a Good Friday fast to be offered a job; sneaking worship between billable hours in New York; crying my eyes out while singing "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord," and "Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle."
I don't know yet how these tiles fit into the mosaic of my life, or why I am moved more by the suffering of the victim than the innocence of an infant or the splendor of the One who rose from the dead. While I can certainly understand that without His Birth, the Crucifixion would not have happened, and without His Resurrection, the Crucifixion would be meaningless, that understanding alone does not affect me emotionally.
I know only that I have survived 40 years of near reckless disregard of the Way, the Truth and the Life, somehow embraced by the loving arms of the Son of Man who stretched them out for me on a cross. And I look forward to that Good Day when His embrace shall be eternal.
May the despair of the day be overshadowed three days from now by the joy of His Resurrection.