A Good Friday Meditation
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory…”
When I was in Zimbabwe with Stop Hunger Now, I received a gift that has become for me an icon of Good Friday. It is a cross-made of three flat nails. There can be no mistaking its sharp message on this afternoon: Jesus’ death on the cross stands between our salvation and a necessary instrument. The keys to this instrument are the nails. The wooden cross cannot be deconstructed, its nails cannot be removed.
I must admit the cross of nails had an immediate, almost treasonous, quality to them there in the famine and AIDS ravaged Third World. It stood as an indictment of the pomp of this world, like the sign of the fish drawn and hurriedly erased in the baked African dust. Nevertheless, one need not leave home to find the sins against which Jesus stood on the cross.
The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar writes: the Passion narratives are the first pieces of the Gospels that were composed as a unity. In his preaching at Corinth, Paul initially wants to know nothing but the Cross, which "destroys the wisdom of the wise and wrecks the understanding of those who understand,” which "is a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles". But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (I Cor 1:19, 23, 25).
The cross stands against every evil that Christ endures, He who humiliated himself to take “mortal form for mortals’ sake.”
God became man, and having done so, handed himself over to die blameless for every human sin. We live within Jesus’ loving embrace saved from sin because of the nails and hard wood of the cross. The instrument of his death, thus, becomes the tool of his resurrection. Evil, injustice, and oppression are dispelled. Paradoxically, the cross of His death becomes the symbol of our victory. All this is bound up in the passion. In thirty-three tolls of the bell, we will the world.
Fr. William H. Marchl, III, Priest Associate
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh