A Few Words From Dale…
Every year I am asked the question. And every year I must relearn the answer because the answer is so implausible, it never sticks. “Tell me again,” someone asks, “why is it called Good Friday when it was a day filled with horror?” Then I draw up a deep breath.
Something Fareed Zakaria penned in a book review helps me rework this all over again.
“Most human events yield to the erosion of time. The greatest, most amazing exception to this generalization (is)…a man, a Jew, some sort of dissident religious prophet, (who) was crucified…In the teachings of this man were two things: first, the principle of charity of love…secondly, the possibility of redemption in the face of self-knowledge and penitence…The combination of these two things…shaped and disciplined the minds and values of many generations—placed, in short, its creative stamp on one of the greatest flowers of the human spirit.”
In my way of looking at things, it is a generous and faithful reading of Jesus and Good Friday by a Muslim. Of course, we who are Christian might insist that it wasn’t Jesus’ teachings or any principles he elucidated that transformed the earth for two millennia. Jesus never asked us to affirm his ideas if to be part of the transformation he brought.
Jesus asked us to follow him, not to memorize and repeat what he said, let’s not forget. We who are Christian affirm the living resurrected Christ and the Holy Spirit he bestows, are alive and at work in the world since Jesus refused to compromise God’s love, even unto a cross. It is about the person of Christ, not him having the wisest or best lessons.
As we approach Holy Week we brush up against sacred mysteries as no other time of the year. We don’t so much understand holy mysteries as we stand under them and breathe. We don’t so much grasp redemption and reconciliation as we let love grasp us.
Perhaps the best way to prepare is to put some Handel or Samuel Barber on the stereo, or to visit an art gallery with representations of the crucifixion from across the millennia. You can’t miss the raw human drama, unsparingly depicted, of innocent suffering, redemption, forgiveness and hope. The result is maybe the most sublime art ever made.
Every year I listen to a modern Russian composer, Sofia Gubaidulina. She has a work called Offertorium which is at once radical and poignant. Radical because it is unsparing in describing Jesus’ painful sacrifice. Poignant because you can almost the flies buzz around Jesus’ delirium as his spirit flags and body fails. I loaned it to Max to offer ideas for the dissonant sounds he makes after I snuff the final candle on Maunday Thursday.
So we enter Holy Week, 2014 with our annual Palm and Passion Sunday. It hits alleluia heights then shifts toward the deepest nosedive humanity has ever taken. We recall that Jesus’ brutal crucifixion has enduring, transforming meaning for good. For if God is in Good Friday, and uses the cross to redeem, that is the defining word of hope. To love anyone, C.S. Lewis writes, is to risk heartbreak. Even for God, it seems. Even for God.