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Why We Call it 'Good Friday'

4/8/2004 - 10:40 AM PST

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by Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

I will soon carry the Cross in the procession into an empty Church sanctuary, stripped in honor of Jesus Christ who emptied Himself for all of us. As I prepare, I am drawn back to recent memorable Good Fridays.

Just last year, I saw the face of love, reflected in an elderly married couple. Actually it was two faces, but they became the One Holy Face of Jesus, showing me how He is revealed through the grace of the Sacrament of marriage.

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 strong 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.

A very old and frail couple approached. She 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 deeply in the face from suffering borne with grace. This wrinkled face adorned a head that was covered with unkempt white hair and a coarse white beard. His eyes were filled with pure love for his beloved wife whom he assisted as she came forward to venerate Holy Cross. Her eyes were distant and her face was beautiful, wrinkled but profoundly feminine, revealing a landscape of embedded sorrow and joy. As she drew closer, I could tell that this landscape was 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. Then, I noticed as he came back into view, a serene look filled her eyes. She seemed to be asking her beloved a simple question” 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 surrendered love. He smiled at me and directed his beloved 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 that face again. I had the privilege of carrying the Body of Christ to this same couple. She was unable to come forward again, 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.

Then, he received the consecrated host and with a profound smile responded to my affirmation “the Body of Christ” with a deep, heart felt “Amen.” Words were useless. He and I both knew we had participated in the mystery we were remembering on this “Good” Friday at a deep level.

His face and the face of his beloved had revealed the face of Love Incarnate. He and I both knew - and exchanged that knowledge- without words - in the meeting of our eyes. 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 past when I had served as a Deacon. Only a few years ago, I presided at a committal and funeral service for my dear wife’s father, Malcolm. He had also died from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. In the progression of that disease, I watched Malcolm reveal the Face of the suffering Christ as well. The progressive disease culminated in his passage through the final portal of the great mystery of life and the invitation to faith that is called death.

I also watched my beloved wife, his loving daughter, reveal the Face of Christ. Through her relationship with her own 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 life she touched.

As her father became a child and his daughter became a second mother to him, I beheld a true “Mary Moment.” I watched my beloved bride truly become, in a new and profound way, a daughter of a Merciful Heavenly Father, a spouse of the Holy Spirit, and in that ...

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