What do you say to a Christian on Good Friday?*

This post was inspired by an interaction on Facebook this morning by a friend I’ve know a while, Jean. I’d like to dedicate this post to her, and thank her for this, and continued inspiration elsewhere! Thank you, Jean! You inspired me today in a dry spell!

The Seven Last “Words” of Jesus Christ from the cross are actually 7 short phrases that Jesus uttered on Calvary. To find all of the seven last words of Jesus Christ, one must read all the gospels since none of the evangelists records all 7 last words. The sayings would have been originally uttered by Jesus in the Aramaic language, but only one of the last seven words of Jesus is preserved for us in the original Aramaic, namely “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani” or “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” which is actually a direct quote of the opening verse of Psalm 22. The rest of the seven last words of Jesus are found in the gospels after having been translated into Greek by the four Evangelists.

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today, and it’s a great question!

I never know what to say to Christians who observe “Good Friday,” since it’s not exactly a celebration. By now, I don’t think I’m on close enough terms with many Christians to wish them anything, but I know that some sincerely aim to do good in the world. “Condolences for your loss” would probably sound sarcastic, but it seems on-track. I remember feeling confused when my Unitarian mother told me that “Good Friday” wasn’t actually good. I think I asked: then why not call it Bad Friday?

I replied by saying that it was complicated, and I’d blog about it. This is my experience–not necessarily a shared experience for everyone.

Good Friday is one day in the liturgical year of the church, one of the holiest. This is the day the church uses to mark the Passion, Crucifixion, and death of Jesus. But it’s one day in a long, long line of days in the calendar. Something that I love about my faith is that liturgically, the year is marked by the passages of festivals, feasts, fasts. And in looking at that calendar, it’s complicated to actually say where things end and things begin because like the literal seasons, and ending is simply another beginning. While it may be easy to say that the church simply linked these times of the year to already existing pagan festivals (and they certainly did in some cases), there is also emerging evidence that the pagans also commandeered existing Christian festivals and practices as well. The point is, the time of the feast, the fast, does purposely coincide with changes in our season. Regardless of how it was formed? It’s beautiful when Easter approaches and the weather reflects a literal rebirth as well of plants, the return of bird, and a freshness in the air we’ve all missed.

I’ve of course realized that there might be some tongue in cheek here as well. It was a bad Friday for a couple of thieves for sure.

What’s the best thing to say to a Christian on Good Friday? Well… would you like me to buy you breakfast? How’s your day? What’s new with you?”

It’s a different kind of holy day. In my Franciscan vocation, I try and put myself in the shoes of the people who are oppressed, the people who are in pain and poverty. Today, it means trying to put myself in the shoes of Christ on the Cross,; it’s an impossibility. To conceive a persons’ physical pain compounded by the pain of literally billions of people past, present, and future–to conceive the Infinite, the Divine, pinned to a cross and not coming down, not stopping the pain, but pushing through it. I can’t conceive that. I wouldn’t know how to begin.

When I try, I weep. And I’m not completely sure why. But I do.

There are moments when it’s easier to feel a connection to Christ in my life. This season is somehow like an amplifier, bringing the real presence somehow closer to me, somehow easier to understand, easier to feel.

And for others, this is just another Friday.

And that’s how it should be.

What do you say to a Christian on Good Friday?*

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