The strangest (and perhaps sickest it could be argued) thing we Christians say is that this day is good. Why? What sense does it make to call a day in which you remember how a loving person was brutally tortured and executed by a crushing imperial state good? How on earth is there anything good to find amidst the wreckage of this day?
What is good about a day in which the skies of our hearts are blackened at the noon hour and when darkness falls over our souls?
I’m not sure I have an answer or that there is such a thing as only one answer to that question. But as one way of broaching the issue, I offer the following.
At the end of the liturgy on Holy (Maundy) Thursday, in my mind the most beautiful liturgy of the church year, the altar is stripped bare and washed with water. The altar is a tomb and the priest lovingly cleans it for the coming burial. This altar is, as the ancients understood, a cosmic altar, the table of the universe. The wood from the earth, made by human hands, symbol of human flesh. All of creation lies within that wood–the oxygen that the wood breaths in and the carbon it exhales. The carbon that gives life to all being and to which they exhale in death to give life to others. The beings that have sheltered under its branches, have feed on its very life to give it sustenance. All are baptized with this water.
The priest is here a mourner at the altar of all existence. And with sad, sweet, loving eyes and kind but sorrowful hands, simply can do nothing but wash the brutality of this world with compassion. To wipe the shame and hatred, the cruelty and stupidity of our lives, of our world, off. Water and a sponge is all we really have, the only place where we can begin–beginning where all things end.
It is a sad commentary on our species that the way in which this compassion is elicited is via a god robbed in human muscles and viscera ripped to shreds by machines of our own mad creation, by the workings of our own inhumanity, our own ungodliness.
But elicit that love this divine-human trauma,this divine-human drama may and that is good news.
Better still is the proclamation–implicit in the naming of this day Good–that this terror is not the final word. Good Friday only receives its positive moniker from being seen retroactively back from the Sunday to come. Only with the eyes of the Resurrection is the meaning of the Cross as Good illuminated. For this god-man has lived into the darkest, most fearful, most terrifying places of our being, of our politics, of our souls and is liberated by the Spirit of the God of Warm Life beyond all of the fear. The Cross is a word, a dark foreboding, horrific word to be sure. But not the final word. There is an Alleluia yet to come.
If the Cross, the most cruel of all the disgusting barbarities humans enact upon beings of light, bodies of dignity, children of the Blessed One, if that utter horror can not finally destroy life, destroy spirit, destroy the human enclosed in the divine, then nothing can and we not need fear any longer. We are free. That teaching is the best of all news.