Good Friday 2009

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Saint Paul wrote these words in his letter to the Galatians, but we all are invited by grace to reflect upon their meaning in the context of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In so doing, we open our hearts to the further refinement of the revelation of God, which is in its totality in the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ, but which is renewed for each and every one of us, as we approach such mystery of divine love hanging from a tree. In the corporate sense, the Church as a whole approaches this mystery at all times, in her many teachings on the subject, in her administration of the sacraments, and most principally in her liturgical remembrances of the life and death of Christ Jesus. Today, Good Friday, in liturgies celebrated around the world, the Church most particularly approaches the divine mystery, of eternal life being expressed in death, and of the King of all Kings manifested in the Man of Sorrows.

It is not just the Church, in her corporate existence, which approaches this divine mystery with which we are today concerned; each and every one of us does as well, in the manner that is most personal to our own condition in life. We are, after all, as baptized Christians collectively the Unblemished Bride of Christ; but we are also individual men and women, each having a conscience that matters, not only for ourselves, but for the salvation of one another. This insight then underscores what Christ Jesus means, when He says: “likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”

How you personally approach the Cross, and what divine revelation you allow yourself to receive, therefore matters, because your life is an integral part of the grand mosaic that is the Body of Christ. This has an important consequence. You cannot simply behold Christ on the Cross as if separate from yourself. You cannot simply feel deep sorrow or empathy for Christ. You must come to see that, in Christ on the Cross, you too are hanging from a tree. His sorrow is yours, just as much as He has taken yours upon Himself.

This is what Saint Paul means when he writes that he may glory in nothing other than that Cross. It is his Cross, as most assuredly as it is the Cross of Christ, not because he earns a right to have his limbs hammered into such an unforgiving wood, but because Christ first earns that gift of divine mercy and grace for him. Similarly, it is our Cross, corporately as the Church and in each and every one of our own lives; and like Christ Jesus, in the hours before His arrest, when in His intimately personal prayer of lamentation to His Father He offered Himself over to His Father’s will, we too must make a decision, whenever we are approaching such mystery of divine love hanging from a tree: Do we accept into our own minds and hearts that great mercy offered to us, of a final death to our own, sordid sins in having the world crucified unto us, and we unto the world; or do we hold onto those very sins, finding a perverse comfort in turning our eyes and ears from the judgment which, in the fullness of time, cannot but be the consequence? Stated in another way, do we live on the Cross, or do we die in fleeing from the Cross, that God in His mercy provides for us?

A few centuries after Saint Paul writes of his glorification on the Cross, Saint Athanasius defines the Incarnation of God in Christ Jesus, not as the descending of God into man, but as the ascending of man into God. In a way, his insight flows naturally from the theology of love expressed most poignantly in the Gospel of John, where in the prayer recounted in such Seventeenth Chapter Christ Jesus asks His Father that “the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” In Christ Jesus, we are called to ascend to a life in the Father and to know in our own lives, corporately and individually, the final joy and peace of divine life. We are invited to be as Sons of God, not as our own divinities, but in the fullness of His wisdom and mercy as partakers of the same. Christ opens this door for us; He is the Propitiation for our sins. Still, if we are to be like Him, then we must ascend into this eternal life as an expression of our own, deepest will, seeking after what is good, allowing our Shepard to find us when we are lost, asking for divine forgiveness when we have fallen along the Way. Christ opens this door for us, but we must walk in on our own feet. God will have it no other way: we are either his Sons, who like our divine Redeemer take upon ourselves the Cross offered to us; or we are not his Sons, in which case we are banishing ourselves from that ascent into divine love in return for the ease and comfort in this world. There is simply no soft, middle way, no compromise that releases us from our own moral and ethical imperative to make a decision in the matter.

How is it that the Cross is the supreme act of divine mercy in our lives? How is it that in losing our lives for His sake, we may find it? We do not know. That is why, in the end, it is a mystery, not capable of being confined in any one particular theological definition or even solemn liturgy. We know only what the women, and then the disciples, saw on that early, morning hour on the third day, when the empty tomb manifested that He had risen.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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