“If what Christians say about Good Friday is true,” said Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, “then it is, quite simply, the truth about everything. I have written this for people who are convinced of that truth, for people who are open to thinking about whether it may be true, and for people who are just curious about why so much of the world thinks Good Friday is the key to understanding what Dante called ‘the love that moves the sun and all the other stars.'”
Fr. Neuhaus devoted an entire book to meditating on Good Friday and, accordingly, came to a deep sense that “Good Friday is not just one day of the year.” Rather, Good Friday is the central event around which history pivots; it is also the basis for the words “crucial” and “crux.”
Throughout history, Christians have lived Fridays penitentially through fasting and other forms of self-denial.
In one of my favourite pieces, “The Land Without a Sunday“, Maria von Trapp recounts Fr. Joseph’s instruction on the development of Christian liturgy:
“Parallel with the development of the Sunday went the development of the liturgical year. In the beginning, the Christians celebrated only one feast: that of Easter. It began on Good Friday, rose to its height on Easter Sunday and was continued during fifty days, the Paschal season, which ended with Pentecost Sunday. The first four hundred years of Christianity did not know the season of Lent, but the Christians fasted every Friday, and later every Wednesday also.”
Earlier in the piece, Maria von Trapp tells of an Austrian couple who had returned from a six-week road trip through [Communist] Russia during which the couple observed, “Instead of a Sunday, the Russians have a day off. This happens at certain intervals which vary in different parts of the country. First they had a five-day week, with the sixth day off, then they had a nine-day work period, with the tenth day off; then again it was an eight-day week. What a difference between a day off and a Sunday!”
This got me thinking about how, if Communist Russia was “The Land Without a Sunday”, then modern Canada is “The Land Without a Friday.”
We think little and seldom about what Good Friday has to do with our own lives and deaths.
We do not take the crucial opportunity each Friday to contemplate suffering and redemption.
And we do not practice, at least 52 times per year, saying, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
But Fr. Neuhaus stressed how “the ancient Christian fathers spoke of the Christ event as the ‘recapitulation’ of the entire human drama” and insists that “Good Friday brings us to our senses. Our senses come to us as we sense that in this life and in this death is our life and our death.”
And so, the good news is that every Friday can become crucial for us again.
Every Friday we can think about what Good Friday has to do with our own lives and deaths.
Every Friday we can contemplate the mystery and meaning of suffering and redemption.
And at least every Friday we can entrust our spirits with loving acceptance of Love Himself.
After all, a society that wants only Sundays without any passion and death will only ever end up with a day off.