Why I Love Good Friday
I love Good Friday. I know that sounds a little crazy.
Good Friday allows me, once a year, an hour or two of unbridled self-pity. On Good Friday, I attend the Veneration of the Cross at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, and I am allowed to weep publically.
This year, this atrocious recession year, I will be weeping for so many – the five couples I know who are going through divorce, the two friends I have that have lost their homes, the three colleagues we have who are losing their businesses. And the thousands who are enduring a heart-rendering self-reckoning, evaluating their own life choices and worthiness and the ability to survive.
So on Good Friday, I go to church and weep for those who suffer, including myself, admittedly. This habit began in 2006, the year Ronan had been so sick. I had just endured a nine-month period devoid of REM sleep. The business was, once again, in crisis. And I prayed for deliverance, or at least answers. In front of me at the altar, the priest brought forward the Good Friday cross – Gabriel’s cross – and presented it to the congregation for each parishioner to solemnly kiss.
You see, in 2005, the Mission’s pastor commissioned Gabriel to craft the Basilica’s Good Friday Cross. It stands five feet tall, and incorporates the architectural elements of the Basilica – Romanesque domes and the rosette motif. It is made with bloodwood and purple heart hardwoods, to symbolize Christ’s suffering. And one day a year, on Good Friday, it holds the Basilica’s reliquary in its center. The rest of the year it hangs in the Basilica in the sanctuary by the tabernacle, and I often take the kids over to kneel and pray next to it.
We didn’t attend its debut service in 2005, as Ronan was born only a few days before Easter that year. But we attended in 2006, and every year thereafter, mostly because Gabriel’s cross gets its spotlight. I recognize that this is a vain reason to attend the Veneration service, but it is also the thing that permanently connects us to this church, and it is the thing that makes me love Good Friday.
Good Friday is the only day of the year that I drop everything in the middle of the day to attend church services. I find it cleansing to leave behind whatever minutiae were consuming me, just for a few moments. It seems, this year more than ever, I am allowed to lay down my cross for an hour to join others in church, a temporary respite before picking it up again and trudging forward.
This cross we are all bearing this year is a heavy one. It seems soul-destroying. It is making us question so many of the life decisions that brought us to this heart-breaking place. Was I irresponsible? Was I greedy? Lazy? Plain stupid? Did I not give enough, or do enough? Was I not smart enough? – not Good enough?
And how much longer must I endure? That’s the $64 million question, isn’t it? Because we all know it will end, we just don’t know how long this path is, along which we must carry this increasingly-weighty cross.
At least I know, at the end of my path, at the top of the hill, I get to put my cross down and rest there. At the risk of sounding too evangelistic, I will go a step further: At least I know I won’t be crucified at the top of the hill, because someone already did that for me.
And so I weep – deeply and openly – on Good Friday. God Bless.