DIANE CAMERON IS A FREELANCE WRITER who had an article published a few years ago in the "Forum" section of U.S.A. Today. She recalled a time in her life described as the lowest point, a time of crushing depression when everything seemed to be loss.
I don't imagine there is anyone reading this post who can't recall his or her own lowest life-point. Maybe someone is feeling, "I'm in it right now!" Diane went on to share that she had gotten out of the habit of regular church worship and of surprisingly finding herself at an Easter morning service in the midst of all this daily confusion and inner darkness. She remembered nothing of the sermon except these words, "We live in a Good Friday world."
On Palm Sunday many Christians heard the Passion account of Saint Mark, and then on Friday, as told by Saint John. If we were attentive we'd see all the themes of the Good Friday World, which is life on the planet today (likely it is the world's story in every place and time) but also themes detected in our own personal lived experience.
The themes of the Good Friday World are these: loss, grief, mistakes, false accusation, suffering, burdens, pain, betrayal, hatred, curses, abandonment, torture, loneliness, false imprisonment, false religion, fears, tears, nakedness, shame, insults, violence, prison abuse, treachery, brutality, bribery, libel, scheming, indifference, cold calculation, the dark world of politics, death. It's often very difficult to live in this world.
We live in a Good Friday World, - we all know a Good Friday World. And on Saturday night, if your church service started in darkness - that's what the darkness symbolized. And much of the world seems to be fine with that. "Jesus came into the world as light, but people preferred darkness to light." And when we can't stand the darkness anymore, the culture goes shopping, or gets high, or we get something else to eat, or we look for another screen in which to lose ourselves.
But Saint Augustine says, "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song." This means we're not celebrating a past event so much as we're celebrating the thing that defines us - resurrection defines us. Resurrection was Jesus' experience surely, but it is as much OUR experience. Or it's supposed to be.
The new fire of Saturday night, and the lifting up high of the great candle, and singing to the candle as if it were personal and even alive, and our taking the light off of the candle and holding it to ourselves and feeling its glow: We're an Easter people. And this isn't just wishful thinking or trying to "buck up" in the darkness - but the light pushed back the darkness. The candles dispelled the darkness - sent it away!
The women at the tomb, called the myrrh-bearers, have something to tell us about this. These women are images of us. They are not poor women or stupid women (as misogynists like to say) but they are not able to move beyond the Good Friday World. They expect only to encounter what they knew on Good Friday. They wonder, 'Who will roll the stone away for us?" They can't or don't think of a personal world of new and other possibilities. All they expect to see again is the brutalized and dead body they had started to embalm on Friday.
They love Jesus very much and are intent on doing for him what they can, but they have yet to comprehend what Jesus can do for them which is to call them - this time not down the dirt roads of Galilee, but to follow him into a new world of faith - into a new world which is to become a new kind of human person - transfigured and born of light.
Some years ago I was chaplain to a residential school for young people who had lost their way. And every Easter there was at least one who asked to be baptized. And so on Easter night theses young men and women would step up to the watery sepulcher with Jesus to be ritually drown - to move beyond the Good Friday World to their own personal Easter. They had started to change and they wanted to change even more - for a lifetime - all the way to heaven. And I want to change. I want to be different from last Easter.
We might print a copy of the little icon of the Myrrh-Bearers speaking with the Easter Angel of Happy News and put it where we'll see it for Easter's Forty Days. Maybe with a simple prayer at hand like this one:
as I walk in this Good Friday world,
grace me, and all of the others,
with something of your
Resurrection life and energy,
Resurrection heart and spirit,
hope and joy.