Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday ~ A Contemplation

Saturday, April 11, 2009
The Cross casts a dim shadow on this day. A shadow ~ absence of light ~ has a meaning only in the context of light and contrast. When I find myself in the shadow of an object, I know that light shines beyond this object. If the object had any degree of translucence, the light would shine through it, diminishing the shadow. I spent the afternoon and evening contemplating and considering this today. I longed to explore this train of thought, this seed of inspiration. A seed for a blog post, I thought, to express the fruits of my contemplations of Good Friday, beyond the plastic cliche He died for our sins.

I did an internet search. (Reading the thoughts and reflections of others helps me formulate my sometimes chaotic thoughts.) I waded through a unreflected sea of mindless scripture-regurgitation as well as some guilt-tripping, to get to a few thoughtful and contemplative pieces of writing about Good Friday. I intuitively have a sense that we just don't get it ~ the Passion of Christ seems so mysical ~ moreso than I'd ever realized in all those years of church-going. Each year I heard the same hollow words spewed out by those plastic church people. Words that mostly obscure the light of the mystical and often get confused for it. Plastic words that made my heart feel ill-at-ease. My heart silently begged to know. How can I know truth --- of the cross, of Good Friday --- in the Now? How can I transpose this truth into my self?
For so many centuries people have been spilling blood to get to God. But in the crucifixion it is reversed - God spills his own blood to reach out to us. This is to take away our old fear, that by spilling blood we try to appease an angry God. There is no such thing as an angry God - only an unconditionally loving God.
Richard Rohr, OFM
The crucifixion ~ a vision of Jesus mangled, bloodied, and dying ~ symbolizes the purest and most ultimate poverty [i.e. complete destruction of selfishness]. It's a divine act of selflessness, a shining sign of his divine nature. The light and love of God shine toward me, through the cross.
The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will -- above, below, without, or within -- you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.

If you carry the cross willingly, it will carry and lead you to the desired goal where indeed there shall be no more suffering, but h ere there shall be. If you carry it unwillingly, you create a burden for yourself and increase the load, though still you have to bear it. If you cast away one cross, you will find another and perhaps a heavier one.
~ Thomas a' Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book II, chapter 12
At one point in my online reading, I glanced upon a sentence that said something like, the human part of us sees death [in the cross], but the spirit in us sees love and life. I tucked that away in the recesses of my mind, for further contemplation. I contemplated. I read a little of Merton. I contemplated some more, silencing the din in my heart, and the loud shouting from my empty thoughts, in a hot, steamy shower. I considered so many things. I felt fluid, metaphorically speaking. And then it made sense to me.

Imagine a tragic analogy ~ a father takes a bullet for his son, thereby saving his son's life, but offering his own. Naturally the son will grieve the (perceived) loss (to himself) of his father. But, should he expend much effort feeling responsible, or guilty, for his father's death? Or should he silently cherish the knowledge that his father loved him, so much that he gave his life, willingly and with love?

Does he not diminish the greatness of this gesture, and possibly his father's love for him, if the son feels guilt and regret, in the wake of the father's death? Does the father feel anger, at having given his life to spare his son's life? Surely Not! The light and love of God shine to me, through the cross. If I consider the crucifixion in the construct of guilt and (self-directed) shame, do I not then diminish its divinity? And possibly the love that underlies the crucifixion? The crucifixion represents God's forgiveness of us all. Forgiveness = surrender. God surrenders to us through his Incarnation.

And then my heart travels to thoughts of Mary. As a mother, I think of her especially on Good Friday. I meditate upon her passivity, as a still and silent witness to her son's suffering. Mary dearly loved her human son, but she loved and honoured the glory of God more. She collaborated in our redemption. For me, Mary's sanctity lies in her immense sorrow, what St. Bernard called a martyrdom of the heart. With her purity of heart, she teaches us love, humility, faith and obedience. This leads me to think of God's will as a road map, and not a direction or a destination.

Jesus made his mother our mother. He made everyone kin to me, to you. Each of us contains the pure glory of God within us. And therefore, although strangers, we belong to each other through an inextricable, divine link. Thomas Merton wrote of a metaphorical dream-state, of illusory separateness, of spurious self-isolation. He described awakening from this dream, seeing and feeling the gate of heaven everywhere: I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs. And, Peter Storey writes, “From the cross where he is nailed, Jesus nails us to each other ... If Jesus has made everyone kin to me, would that not make every war in history a civil war and every casualty a death in my family?”

Wow. I never saw it that way, before. I feel filled with light.

[Here's a great article on the vulnerability of Jesus.]


Tabitha in Bliss said...

Wow Tink this was an awesome read!! I love the theory that we are all connected..Growing up the church scared my butt off and also confused me, but I feel I know so much more now and I love the daily growth he shows me. :)

Mayden' s Voyage said...

Namaste friend~ these are beautiful reflections on a powerful day. We are all connected, I believe this too...
The one theme I found today as I read through the book of Luke with my family was the phrase "Do not be afraid"-
I found it comforting that those who knew Jesus personally needed to be reminded not to fear ...I need to hear it too.

Hugs and Happy Easter~

myrope said...

I was spared most of the he-died-for-your-sins kind of guilt, growing up. I've always thought of it as a challenge - god gave up his son - what would you give up to make the world a better place?
But now I think more of jesus as a man, his conscious choice. This was his act of free will - like the father in your analogy. Surely by blaming others, we are cheapening his gift?
thankyou for bringing me some deep thinking today.