Love is Stronger than Death. Why We Call it Good Friday
I witnessed the mystery of a love stronger than death which transforms suffering
Every Good Friday is an encounter with Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, who stretched out his arms to embrace each one of us.We are reminded that death is no longer the final word. For those filled with hope of the Resurrection, it is no longer an enemy but a friend, the passageway to life eternal. The suffering we are invited to bear, when joined to Jesus Christ, can become a vehicle for love and mercy. This is what St Josemaria Escriva called the "Christian Revolution", suffering transformed by grace.
I raised the Cross so that she could touch it with her lips as a sign of her surrendered love. He smiled at me and directed his beloved wife back to the pew. Words were useless. I knew, he knew, and the Lord knew.
Years ago, I served as Deacon at the solemn "Celebration of the Lords Passion" at Christ the King parish . I had just carried the Cross into the waiting assembly chanting three times: "This is the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Savior of the world," at which the assembly responded, "Come Let us worship." Now that cross, lodged in the arms of the priest, was presented for all who had gathered to come forward and venerate with a kiss or a profound bow, as is the ancient custom.
This frail couple approached. The wife could barely walk without her husband´s loving firm support. As they drew closer, I could see that the husband´s face was filled with deep wrinkles, the kind of love lines etched in the face from suffering borne with grace. His head was covered with unkempt white hair and framed with a coarse white beard. His eyes were filled with pure love for his beloved wife whom he assisted so tenderly as she came forward to venerate the Holy Cross.Her eyes were distant and her face was beautiful, wrinkled but profoundly feminine, revealing a landscape of embedded sorrows and joys, a full life now coming to its winter. As she drew closer, I could tell that the lines in her face had been accentuated by the progressive ravages of Alzheimer´s disease.
He stooped to kiss the cross and in so doing moved his steady hands and his face momentarily away from her gaze. She looked at first afraid, because his face had left her view for a brief moment. I noticed as he came back into her view that a serene look filled her eyes. She seemed to be asking her beloved a simple question with her expression "What now?" He directed her head toward the base of the Cross and in so doing he caught my eyes with his own. Instantly, I raised the Cross so that she could touch it with her lips as a sign of her surrendered love. He smiled at me and directed his beloved wife back to the pew. Words were useless. I knew, he knew, and the Lord knew.
A little later, during the third part of the solemn Good Friday service, when Holy Communion is given to the faithful for the last time before the Easter Vigil, I saw them again. I had the privilege of carrying the Body of Christ to this same couple. She was unable to come forward again because her body just wouldn´t respond to her mind. As I approached them with the consecrated hosts, he insisted that she receive first and directed my hand toward her mouth with great affection and love-- for his wife, but even more for the Eucharistic Lord whom he so obviously loved.
Then he received the Lord, present fully, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Most Holy Eucharist and with a profound smile, responded to my affirmation, "the Body of Christ" with a deep, heartfelt, "Amen." Other words were not needed. He and I both knew we had participated in the mystery we were remembering on this "Good" Friday. His face - and the face of his beloved - revealed the face of Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate.
He and I both knew the beauty of the moment - and we exchanged that knowledge - without words - in the meeting of our eyes. We both knew that this beautiful woman, whom he cherished, was already in the hands of a loving God. It would all be alright. She would one day be made entirely new. The love that he bore for her was a participation in a deeper Love -- the kind revealed on the Cross that they had both just kissed; the kind communicated to them, given to them freely in the Body of Christ they had just consumed. He and I both knew at that moment why we call it "Good" Friday.
As I walked back toward the altar, I recalled another Good Friday from my past. On that Good Friday, I had served as a Deacon at a committal and funeral service for my dear wife´s father, Malcolm. He had died from the ravages of Alzheimer´s disease. For years, in the progression of that disease, I watched Malcolm reveal the Face of the suffering Christ. It culminated in his passage through the final portal of the great mystery of life and the invitation to faith that we call death.
During those years, I also watched my beloved wife, his loving daughter, reveal the Face of Christ. Through her relationship with her Dad (whom she had the privilege of caring for through the progressive stages of Alzheimer´s disease), she became an "icon", a mirror, a living word of love to me and others whose lives she touched through her faithful witness of love.
As her father became a child and his daughter became a second mother to him, I beheld what I now call a "Mary Moment" because it captures the heart of Mary's surrender to the Lord's invitation. I watched my beloved bride truly become, in a new and profound way, a daughter of a merciful Heavenly Father and in that participation in divine Love, embrace her own earthly father with the love that is greater than any that is purely human.
In that chorus of lived out sacrificial love, she resembled Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth whose humble "Fiat" of surrendered love opened the floodgates of heaven and changed all of human history.
This graveside committal service took place, at his request, in Malcolm's childhood home of Andover, Massachusetts. At the traditional time, when Catholics remember Our Lord, Love in the flesh, hanging on Golgotha´s hill, I commended Malcolm to the Mercy revealed on the altar of the Cross. As we placed his remains in the womb of the earth until his resurrection at the last glorious day, I also experienced why it is called "Good" Friday. That too was a moment when words were useless.
As I led the ritual of prayers, I blessed the ground with holy water and spoke these words in a graveside reflection, "I now know a little more deeply why we call it 'Good' Friday - it is good because it reveals the heart of a Good God of boundless merciful love who Himself knows our pain and who, in His Son, transforms it all by redemptive love. This is not the end for our brother, father and friend Malcolm, but it is a new beginning. Life triumphs over death and love transforms pain and suffering because Jesus hung on that Cross on that Friday we call 'Good'. That tomb in Jerusalem is empty now, and one day, so too will this ground give back Malcolm, made entirely new by the power of transforming love!"
Through the encounter with the elderly couple, as well as at the graveside of my father-in-law, I experienced the beauty of truly surrendered love. Every Good Friday is an invitation to each of us to be reminded of that same love through our encounter with Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ, who stretched out his arms to embrace each one of us. On Good Friday we are reminded that death is no longer the final word. For those filled with hope of the Resurrection, it is no longer an enemy but a friend, the passageway to life eternal. We are also promised that the suffering we are invited to bear, when joined to Jesus Christ, can become a vehicle for love and mercy.
At the end of the Good Friday service at Christ the King, when I turned with the priest to face the gathered assembly, my eyes were drawn again to this beautiful couple. I will never forget their faces. I saw the face of Christ revealed. What a privilege it was for me to have experienced each of those two "Good" Fridays. What a privilege it will be to experience another one this year. Love is stronger than death. That is why we call it "Good Friday."
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2014
Peace: That the Lord may grant peace to those parts of the world most battered by war and violence.
World Mission Day: That World Mission Day may rekindle in every believer zeal for carrying the Gospel into all the world.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
- 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
- Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
- Lent is almost over, but have YOU kept this Commandment?
- 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
- Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.
- Holy Thursday: He Loves to the End
- 2nd Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
- The Precious and Life-Giving Cross of Christ
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?
More Easter / Lent
'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading
Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading
On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading
HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading
On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading
Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading
For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading
Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now
What did you give up for Lent?
From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading
Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning ...Continue Reading
Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014
The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading
On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.
In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More
Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.
ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations
'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35
Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.
Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
Learn More »