Friday, April 10, 2009

The Good In Friday

Is there a person who doesn't think that Friday is possibly the best day of any week? For most of us, it's the harbinger of time to ourselves. To do what we want. To sleep when we feel. To play. Have fun. Live life. Answer our own agenda; be the boss.

Of course, we waste most of each week hoping for Friday once Monday comes and we're back on the wheel working fo da man! We waste most of our lives hoping for two days out of any week...

Doesn't seem a good trade to me. But, I'll admit, there's nothing like a Friday to lift the spirits. There's a lot of good in any Friday.

Today, is the real deal. The actual Good Friday for those of the Christian faith. The day that marks the saddest of all days. The day that marks the death of The Christ.

Most Good Fridays I recall always seem gray and overcast. Much like the day we're having here in Western PA. It seems to fit the sombre mood of most as they consider the torment and death of their savior.

When I was a child, Good Fridays meant three hours at S.S. Philip & James sitting through the vigil. It was long. Sad. Silent. Full of expectation. And beautiful in a dark way.

Back in the day, during the 40 days of Lent, Catholic churches covered and cloaked the statues. Done to mark the seriousness of the Lenten season. To be a visual reminder of the sacrifices and consideration one should take on in the days leading to Easter.

At, our church, this meant that St. Joseph, St. Anthony, The Madonna, all were bundled into burgundy bags and remained covered until you came into the church on Easter Sunday. The church also had, in the left corner, the largest crucifix ever. The Christos was life-sized on the dark cross. And the face, eyes serenely closed, was beautiful. It suggested peace despite the horrors of the death you were witnessing.

I loved that crucifix. It wasn't tortured as many are depicted. It seemed regal. Kind. Gentle. Humanly frail. Victorious in seeming defeat. The bank of flickering candles that burned beneath it added a quiet beauty.

During Lent, this Crucifix turned into the biggest burgundy kite you're ever likely to find. We kids couldn't help it; it looked like a kite. Yep. We would sit through Mass and peer over wondering how it would look flying in the air. We felt it was wrong because we knew it was really Jesus on the cross hiding in its Lenten bag, but hey, doesn't it look like a kite?

Three hour Good Friday vigil was nothing to look forward to. Minutes in a church for a kid can be a lifetime. Hours? Yikes. Try not to fidget. Don't think of Jesus in the kite. Wonder if Mary and Joseph and Anthony have a hard time breathing in those sacks? Wonder who else is here? Do we have to stay the whole time? I forgot my rosary... Why aren't any candles lit....

I will never forget the Good Friday vigil when I saw part of a ceremony that made me aware of the true meaning of it all. Saw the reason Humans have rituals and traditions to help us understand big mysteries...

If you go into any Catholic church on any day, at any hour, even if you are the only soul there, you know that you are not alone. Because, in every church, in every tabernacle where the altar rests, you will see the Tabernacle Candle flickering. This light represents the living presence of The Christ. It's a grand mystery in a tiny flame. Mostly, these are red glass. I've also seen them flickering behind blue glass. Sometimes, they are clear and burn brightly. There's a constancy and familiarity the candle brings so that, even though the church might be unfamiliar to you, you still feel a sense of connection and understanding. A sense of belonging.

But, on Good Friday at 3 p.m, which is the hour traditionally marked as the hour The Christ died, the tabernacle light is put out. And, the altar remains dark until Easter morning. At my church, the Tabernacle Lamp was large, ornate and gold, suspened high above the altar from three chains. Beautiful. Elaborate.

There is a weight to witnessing the twinkling familiar light extinquished. The quiet and dark that follows feels deep and significant. Sad. A bit un-nerving. I'm not certain that Catholic churches even do this any longer. Like many of the traditions I grew up with, they've been eliminated. Viewed as no longer important to the practice. Which I find sad.

On that Friday, when the candle was snuffed out, I watched the wisp of smoke trail up. I remember becoming still; the desire to fidget evaborated. Suddenly, I had no wish to leave. I simply wanted to sit there in the darkened space and take it all in...

Yes, there is good in every Friday. But, this is Good Friday. And, I remember.

Namaste' Till Next Time,


Cam@Journey Wildly said...

I converted when I was eleven.

I am fidgety by nature, but I always appreciated the beauty in the ritual & ceremony. (even though I also found sitting still a struggle) :)

While the girls were down, we went to Savannah and I took them by St. John's beautiful cathedral. It really is an ornate & peaceful sight to behold.

I am no longer practicing catholicism, but the churches still feel like an old friend whenever I visit.

cinner said...

Well once again you brought it all back to me Holly. Have a great weekend.

Anonymous said...

When in church tonight, I'm going to check to see if the Tabernacle Candle is lite and, I will think of you. I'll let you know on Monday.

I agree with Good Friday always being a gray day and when I was little, I remember thinking that God made Good Friday a gray day for the reason we celebrated Good Friday.

Tonight, we will watch The Passion, as we have done every year since the movie came out.

Happy Easter Holly...

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