Come down, O Christ, and help me! reach thy hand,
For I am drowning in a stormier sea
Than Simon on thy lake of Galilee:
The wine of life is spilt upon the sand,
My heart is as some famine-murdered land
Whence all good things have perished utterly,
And well I know my soul in Hell must lie
If I this night before God’s throne should stand.
‘He sleeps perchance, or rideth to the chase,
Like Baal, when his prophets howled that name
From morn to noon on Carmel’s smitten height.’
Nay, peace, I shall behold, before the night,
The feet of brass, the robe more white than flame,
The wounded hands, the weary human face.
Good Friday has always seemed a modern paradox. How is it that we call the day of Jesus execution, Good? Those who study language and its development believe this name simply evolved of centuries and cultural development. They point to an earlier reference of, “God’s Friday.” This would seem like a reasonable guess. “Goodbye” has its roots in a farewell like, “God be with you.”
Good Friday has been observed since about 100 C. E. Many churches now have mourning services from noon until 3:00 p.m. to symbolize Jesus’ last hours on the cross. Some congregations also re-enact Jesus’ procession to the cross in a ritual known as Stations of the Cross. In the “Ceremony of the Winding Sheet,” Greek Catholics carry a cloth depicting Jesus’ dead body in procession to a shrine, where the priest places it in a symbolic tomb. Another ceremony is the “Service of Darkness” or “Service of Shadows”, usually held in the evening of Good Friday. It is usually characterized by a series of Scripture readings and meditations done in stages while lights and candles are gradually extinguished to symbolize the growing darkness not only of Jesus’ death but of hopelessness in the world without God. The service ends in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, carried out of the sanctuary.
Whatever the origin of the phrase, the current day offers a lesson to those of us who assume that “good” always means “happy.” This day marked with sadness is still a good day. Good Friday has always challenged human goodness. This sad day is also a victorious day reminding us that in the face of sin, our goodness amounts to nothing. Only One is good enough to save humanity – God. It is the humanity of Jesus that gives us hope that God still desires to use us as peacemakers in this broken world. It is the power of God that is the cause for celebration.
You Are Made Well…
Vol 4 #34