Friday, April 10, 2009

Is this Friday good?

Lent ended last night. It is Good Friday today - although I have always wondered how that name was given to the saddest day on the Christian calendar. But no matter the name, this day of sorrow is upon us today.

Once again, I give you the words of Henri Nouwen from Show Me The Way.

Good Friday: day of the cross,
day of suffering, day of hope,
day of abandonment, day of victory,
day of mourning, day of joy,
day of endings, day of beginnings.

During the liturgy at Trosly, Pere Thomas and Pere Gilbert took the huge cross that hangs behind the altar from the wall and held it so the whole community could come and kiss the dead body of Christ... Everybody seemed to know very well what they were doing: expressing their love and gratitude for him who gave his life for them. As they were crowding around the cross and kissing the feet and head of Jesus, I closed my eyes and could see his sacred body stretched out and crucified upon our planet earth

Walking with the people in Paradise, Nicaragua
- a profoundly misnamed place -
to the place where we would distribute food.

(This is the part that touches me most deeply ->)

I saw the immense suffering of humanity during the centuries: people killing each other; people dying from starvation and epidemics; people driven from their homes; people sleeping on the streets of large cities; people clinging to each other in desperation; people flagellated, tortured, burned, mutilated; people alone in locked flats, in prison dungeons, in labor camps; people craving a gentle word, a friendly letter, a consoling embrace, people... all crying out with an anguished voice:

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?"

And later: As they came - walking or limping, seeing or blind, hearing or deaf - I saw the endless procession of humanity gathering around the sacred body of Jesus, covering it with their tears and their kisses, and slowly moving away from it comforted and consoled by such great love... With my mind's eye, I saw the huge crowds of isolated, agonizing individuals walking away from the cross together, bound by the love they had seen with their own eyes and touched with their own lips. The cross of horror became the cross of hope; the tortured body became the body that gives new life; the gaping wounds became the source of forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.

Today I think of the hungry, frightened friends we made in Nicaragua, the mournful, newly homeless victims of the earthquake in Italy, the still homeless victims of Hurricane Katrina, the fires in Texas and Oklahoma, the tornadoes in Arkansas, the uninsured, the unemployed, the bankrupt, the foreclosed upon, the mentally ill, the chronically ill, the dying, the doctors and nurses and caregivers who serve them and us, those in prison unjustly, those being held captive by unsanctioned rebels and sanctioned soldiers, those killing and being killed in war zones, the hungry, thirsty, lonely, and sorrowful all around the world. The list goes on. The tears flow on.

On this misnamed day, the cross is a device of deep torture
- and a symbol of deep love.
It is the greatest mystery of all time.
It is also the story that gives me hope.
It is the story that sustains me in the darkness hours.
Sorrow lasts for the night, I have read, but joy comes in the morning.
For some, "the night" seems to last for years...

In an entirely different context, my dear and distant friend Jen has listened to me give the details of the saddest and most painful story of my life, a story I am still living through, and she has said to me many times, "This is not the end of the story." She is right. So very right. This sorrow is not the end of the story.

Taken at the Vatican. Michelangelo's Pieta.

Her words are more right than ever on this day:
This is not the end of the story.
How do I know? Because it's Friday - but Sunday's coming!!!

1 comment:

Amy said...

Sunday IS coming, Gail. The day of hope! The day of mystery! The day of faith and praise ...