Allowing Good Friday to Pierce Our Hearts
The day of days is upon us. We remember Christ’s Passion and death at every Mass and we are supposed to memorialize it every Friday, but the celebrations of Holy Week are poignant for a purpose. The liturgies of the Triduum bring to bear a true reliving of events of Christ’s Passion. Though he accomplished the task once for all time, when we celebrate the liturgy time is transcended. We are taken back to the day, to the sacrifice, to Calvary itself. “Memorial” is a strange word that we probably mostly associate with monuments that remember something that happened or someone that has gone. But the word “memorial” has much deeper meaning that is relevant for our celebration of the Mass in general and for our celebration of Good Friday in particular. The Hebrews were told to keep the Passover as a “memorial” of what happened when God intervened in their slavery in Egypt and brought them out into freedom for worship and to make them a nation. With the celebration of the Passover it was not to be a mere recalling of an event that took place once long ago, but every generation is meant to memorialize Passover as though it is truly present again, it is, as it were, a re-presentation in the fullest sense. We, too, should celebrate each Mass this way - Christ’s sacrifice is truly present on the altar. It happened once a long time ago and yet in the mystery of God’s goodness, he is making that sacrifice present and efficacious at every single Eucharist.
This Good Friday let us also keep memorial. May we act and behave, as far as we are able in our station in life, to realize that the events of Christ’s suffering and death are being represented. Below are a few suggestions of how to enter into the mystery of the sacred mysteries of the death that became our salvation.
Stripping the Senses
The season of Lent is a penitential season in general. We are meant to give things up that we like. We are meant to spend more time in prayer. We are meant to offer alms and give away our worldly goods.
Good Friday calls for a higher state of stripping ourselves of the things of this world. One of the best ways to do this is to keep silence as often as is practical. Do not watch or listen to or read anything that does not pertain to Christ. Do not engage in idle talk. This may be a great challenge if you are extroverted or if you have young children at home, but endeavor to make this day feel as different as possible.
Fasting is obligatory on Good Friday. Do not necessarily seek to distract yourself from your hunger. Think of how hungry and thirsty Christ must have been this day when his last meal was the night before. Think above all of his thirst for souls. He cried, “I thirst” from the cross, and this was not merely a physical desire. He thirsts for the salvation of souls, the salvation of our souls. When you do eat or drink, make it as simple and plain as possible. It is not the day for extravagant taste.
Set aside household labor for the day, or at least until the evening. Though there may be many preparations to be made for Easter celebrations, they can wait until after Christ has been laid in the tomb.
Go for a long walk if possible. Perhaps try going barefoot for part of it if prudent and think about Christ’s ascent to Mount Calvary.
Spend your quiet time reflecting on the sufferings of Christ. Learn more about the Shroud of Turin which shows in exquisite detail what wounds Our Lord bore for us. Watch the Passion of the Christ if that will allow you to understand the reality of his pain. Pray the Stations of the Cross either at your parish, at a shrine, or at home.
Go visit an Altar of Repose before Veneration of the Cross and spend some time alone with Our Lord.
Thik about someone that has died or about suffering you have experienced in your life. Unite this suffering to Christ’s Passion.
If Confessions are available near you, go to confession and acknowledge your sins and weaknesses to the Lord and be reconciled to him.
If able to attend Veneration of the Cross, try to be as immersed in the mysteries as possible. Allow the words of the gospel to wash over you and penetrate your heart. We have hearts of stone that must be made hearts of flesh. When we know the story well, sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other. Try to listen to the gospel as if it is the first time that you are hearing the story of Jesus’s Passion and death. Try to imagine yourself as a bystander watching it all happen. Think - what was Mary feeling? John? Peter? What must have it been like to watch one you know was completely innocent suffer and die for the sake of sinners?
Enter the Mystery
Perhaps one of the most important things we can do is to simply revel in the mystery. God became man to reconcile us to himself. Original sin created an infinite divide between man and God. Man alone could not traverse it. Instead of rejecting the creation that rejected him, God in his infinite love and mercy enacted his salvific plan that man might be reconciled. Even greater than reconciliation, he made it possible for us to not only be his creatures, but to be his sons and daughters. We have been exalted past the position man was in before the Fall. Let us meditate on the words of the Exultet which will be proclaimed at the Easter Vigil: O happy fall, that gained for us so great a redeemer!