Another year... Again...
It's Good Friday... Holy and Solemn Friday... A holy day, especially in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches... A day where we take off work and fast and pray and go to Holy Liturgy to relive those final hours.
I think a lot of Christian folks (not just in Catholic/Orthodox parishes) see Good Friday and try to connect with Christ on the Cross. The Sacrifice... The pain... The human fear mixed with the Divine Love...
Not me. For me, Good Friday is the big holy day that isn't about Jesus.
It's about Mary.
It wasnt always that way for me. When I found the Catholic Church, I was 16 and flew headstrong into the holy day traditions. I mourned with Christ on the Cross... I agonized over His Sacrifice... Even, after my first miscarriage, Good Fridays still brought me back to that image... Of a man, not much older than I, hanging from a tree, blood dripping from nail holes, a gaping drape of his side, a cloth covering his wounded body. Dying. The last breaths escaping. Each inhale a tragic reminder of his humanity, a step closer to his death, to His Rising.
And then, Nicholas and Sophia died.
That first Triduum, I was in church, a shell of a human being, a week away from their memorial service. As the voices of my friends mixed with organ and piano and the shuffle of feet moving down the isle... As the cross was displayed, empty, covered... As the Passion was relived, an echo of the Palm Sunday before, there was no image of Christ in my head.
There was Mary.
There she was, while the men- his friends- had run away in fear, listening to the scourging. There she was, hidden in the crowds who yelled "Crucify Him". There she was, wringing her hands, when Pilot told the guards to take him away... when he carried the weight of wood on his back... when he fell, again and again...and again. There she was, trying for a moment, to give him peace in her gaze, as he found her on the road to Calvary. There she was, at the foot of the cross, watching someone drive nails through the flesh of her son, of her baby boy. Watching his gasp for breath. Watching him suffer. Watching him die. This tiny babe that she had brought into the world, now a young man as she watched the last bit of life drain from his olive face, the matted, blood and sweat stained hair fall in front of eyes that, at last closed. The agonized scream that must have escaped her delicate lips, the tears that must have fallen, the air that just wouldnt come. That broken, orphaned mother... That me.
That is what I see.
And every Good Friday, since 2008, I have sat in church and wept, openly. I can't read the words through my blurry eyes. I cant utter the words that condemn that woman's child to death. I can't breathe under the weight of my guilt... the weight of her suffering and agony. Because, while Jesus died on that cross for the sins of the world, Mary died over and over and over again as she watched her tiny baby- in the body of a man- suffering. She is the one who cradled that broken body, whose warm tears bathed his cold flesh. She is the one who wrapped her arms and the burial clothes around the last reminder of her son's body and who had to watch as a stone separated him from her.
Oh Mary... How I can feel your grief. How I can relate. And yet, I have to stop there, because even I can't fathom how you must have felt. Faith is a great thing, but in the face of the ultimate sacrifice, even that is not enough to give you back your heart, is it?
We all know how the story ends... That Good Friday is only one day in a the passing of an eternity that ends in a Resurrection of Light.
But today, right now, I'm with her... In the darkness...