Reflections on Good Friday: We Preach Christ and Him Crucified
The crucifixion is an historical fact. The crucifixion is at the heart of true faith
The crucifixion and death of Jesus are historical events. They happened. Good Friday recalls this historical truth. We have the witness of all the Gospels, the witness of the early Church, the absence of any relic of Christ's body. From the beginning, Christians, among them the Apostle Paul, "preached Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2)
A suffering, dying God is something possible only because the Son of God in the Incarnation assumed human nature, a nature which we very much know--unlike that of God--can suffer, and can die. The dead corpus of Jesus on the crucifix remained hypostatically united to the Son of God and therefore to the Godhead. Death did not sever this indissoluble link.
For three days, therefore, we learn that we can worship the living God through the dead body of the Lord Jesus while his soul was harrowing Hell. In the crucifixion, we worship the living God through his human body which is dead. This is "Christ crucified," the scandalous Christ, a stumbling block to some, and foolishness to others. (1 Cor. 1:23)
The good and well-meaning Roman centurion who exclaimed upon Jesus' death, "Surely this was the Son of God" got his theology wrong. He should have said, "Surely this is the Son of God," for the body hanging lifeless on the cross still remained united to the Son of God who was very much alive.
In the storehouse of the Church's hymns, among the most haunting, the most beautiful are those that pertain to this day.
O Crux ave, spes unica,
Hoc Passionis tempore!
Piis adauge gratiam,
Reisque dele crimina.
O hail the Cross our only hope
In this passiontide!
Grant increase of grace to believers
And remove the sins of the guilty.
In the hymn Crux Fidelis, we sing the words:
Pange, lingua, gloriosi proelium certaminis
Et super crucis trophaeo dic triumphum nobilem,
Qualiter redemptor orbis immolatus vicerit.
Sing, my tongue, the Savior's glory; tell His triumph far and wide;
Tell aloud the famous story of His body crucified;
How upon the cross a victim, vanquishing in death, He died.
The crucifixion and death of Jesus are historical events. They happened. Good Friday recalls this historical truth. We have the witness of all the Gospels, the witness of the early Church, the absence of any relic of Christ's body. From the beginning, Christians--among them the Apostle Paul--preached "Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (1 Cor. 2:2) This Jesus, St. Paul tells the Philippians, was obedient "unto death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:8) This Jesus, St. Peter tells his people, we through our sins "killed, using lawless men to crucify him," to the boon of all mankind. (Acts 2:23) O Felix Culpa! O Happy Fault!
The crucifixion and death is testified to even by early Jewish and Pagan historians, as in the so-called Testimonium Flavanium, where the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus in his Antiquities states in passing that Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to death on the cross. The 2nd century satirist Lucian of Samosata in his Passing of Peregrinus ridicules Christians for worshiping "the crucified sage" or "crucified sophist." This satire is seen in particularly striking form in the 1st century Alexamenos graffito (also known as the graffito blasfemo), which shows Jesus as a donkey crucified on the cross and contains the words in Greek, "Alexander worships God."
Thus the crucifixion is vouched for by unbelieving Jewish historians for whom it is a stumbling block, and even in an oblique or blasphemous way by Greek satirists and Roman schoolboys for whom it is foolishness.
It is part of our ritual on Good Friday to venerate the Holy Cross in a particularly striking and memorable way. This devotion to the Holy Cross is carried through the entire year in our devotions, in our Stations of the Cross, where we worship Christ and bless him, for by his Holy Cross he redeemed the world.
The "Prayer Before a Crucifix" is a popular and richly-indulgenced prayer.
Behold, O good and sweetest Jesus,
I cast myself upon my knees in Thy sight,
and with the most fervent desire of my soul
I pray and beseech Thee
to impress upon my heart
lively sentiments of faith,
hope and charity,
with true repentance for my sins
and a most firm desire of amendment.
Whilst with deep affection and grief of soul
I consider within myself
and mentally contemplate
Thy five most precious wounds,
having before mine eyes that which David,
the prophet, long ago spoke concerning Thee,
"They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones."
In the Litany of the Holy Cross, we identify the instrument of the crucifixion and death of Christ--the Cross--as something heralded by the prophets, preached by the apostles, as the instrument which caused the salvation of the world.
But--alas--not all the world, and not all who claimed to be a prophet or apostle of the most high God preached the Cross. Tragically, there are more than one billion Muslims who, following the lead of the self-acclaimed prophet Muhammad, deny the crucifixion and deny the redemptive death of Jesus. This is a cause for great sadness.
Why do Muslims reject the crucifixion and death of Jesus whom they acknowledge as prophet? Because of historical reasons? No. On the witness of one man, Muhammad, a man who did not know Christ.
The Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, unambiguously denies the historical crucifixion and death of Jesus. In Surah an-Nisa 4:157 we read with respect to Jesus: "And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him," ma qataluhu wama salabuhu. Instead, the Qur'an continues, it was only made to appear so, wa laakin shubbiha lahum.
Through sheer faith, against all historical evidence, Muslims are irrationally bound, by the word of their alleged prophet, to deny history, to deny the Cross, and to deny God's chosen instrument of their redemption. This is a tragedy of the first proportion.
The Jesus of the Qur'an is not "Jesus crucified." The Jesus of the Qur'an is a paper Jesus. The Jesus of the Qur'an is in fact not the real Jesus at all.
St. Augustine had cause to address the issue of those who denied the reality of the crucifixion. Although Muhammad was not yet born when St. Augustine preached his words, the heretical Docetists--from whom perhaps directly or indirectly Muhammad obtained his false ideas--denied the crucifixion and death of Christ. To the Docetists--the name comes from the Greek dokeo "to seem"--Christ did not suffer and die on the Cross, he just seemed to do so.
To deny the crucifixion was, in St. Augustine's eyes, vanity or futility.
"It would indeed be vanity," St. Augustine tells his flock in one of his sermons, "if we were to say that Christ had not really undergone death but only pretended to, that those wounds of his were phantom wounds, that it was not genuine but faked blood that flowed from the wounds, that he later showed his disciples unreal scars after unreal wounds."
Those who deny the reality of the crucifixion, whether in ordinary history or its deeper significant in sacred history, "are frogs croaking in a muddy marsh," says St. Augustine. They can make a noise with their voices; they cannot instill the teaching of wisdom." They cannot instill the teaching of wisdom because they deny the truth "which is the Word made flesh and dwelling among us; the truth, Christ born of God, the One from One, only-begotten and co-eternal; the truth, who took the form of a servant and was born of the virgin Mary, suffered, was crucified, rose, ascended; all the time, truth."
We, of course, do not know what went through the mind of Muhammad when, in the name of Allah, he rejected the passion, crucifixion, and death of his Redeemer, a Redeemer he denied with the ranine words of the Qur'an which so offend against history and so offend against God.
What we do know is that Muhammad led, and continues to lead even after his death, billions of our human brothers and sisters astray, away from the Jesus on the Cross who suffered, died, and rose again for their sins, the sins of the sons of Ishmael, as well as the sins of the sons of Isaac, and indeed the sins of all mankind.
In the declaration Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council stated that the "plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims." This is a truism: God wills the salvation of all mankind, including the Muslims. What Nostra aetate does not say about the followers of Muhammad, but what is certainly true, is that the plan of salvation for them is not Muhammad, but, like all the rest of mankind, "Jesus Christ, and him crucified."
On Good Friday, before the crucifix, let us say a prayer for the conversion of our Muslim brothers and sisters, that they may embrace the Cross, as the Jesus on the cross seeks to embrace them.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Lent / Easter News
- When Did We See You Hungry? Lent and the Love of Preference for the Poor
- Courageous Cardinal George Challenges Us to Use Lent as a Time to Take Stock of Our Lives
- Led by the Spirit into the Desert: God Does Not Need Lent, We Do
- Almsgiving, Prayer, and Fasting: The Three Pillars of Lent
- Contemplatives in the World: Learning to Pray During the Forty Days of Lent
- Ash Wednesday: Turn Away From Sin and Turn Toward the Lord
- Deacon Fred Bartels: Ash Wednesday As a Moment of Decision
- Fr Dwight Longenecker on the Practical Practice of Fasting
- Fr Randy Sly: 'Fat Tuesday' - Mardi Gras Meant to Be More than a Party
- 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 »
Deacon Keith Fournier - Catholic Online, 3/11/2014
Lent 2014 brings the death and resurrection of the Lord more insistently into the horizon of our lives. Before the Lord, we are all weak and needy, poor in who we are, rich in him. Grateful for ...Continue Reading
Deacon Keith Fournier - Catholic Online, 3/11/2014
The option or love of preference for the poor. This is an option or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity to which the whole tradition of the church bears witness. It ...Continue Reading
Deacon Keith Fournier - Catholic Online, 3/10/2014
This ancient practice of setting aside 40 days in order to enter - in Jesus - into the desert places in our own daily lives and confront the temptations and struggles we face - is a gift. It ...Continue Reading
Wendy C. RN., BA. - Catholic Online, 3/8/2014
'Give alms...Pray to your Father...Fast without a gloomy face...' (Matthew 6:1-18) LOS ANGELES, CA - Giving alms, Jesus teaches, means making the needs of others our own, especially the needy of our ...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 »