Good Friday: Why We Call it 'Good' Friday
By Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
This Friday I will carry the Cross in the procession into an empty Church sanctuary which has been stripped in honor of Jesus Christ who emptied Himself for us. As I walk through this week we call "Holy", I was drawn back to a memorable Good Friday I now offer for the reflection of my fellow pilgrims.
Two years ago while serving at Christ the King Parish in Norfolk, Virginia; I saw the face of love reflected in an elderly married couple. I served as Deacon at the solemn “Celebration of the Lords Passion”. 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, Father Brian Rafferty, 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 that are 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, 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 ...
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