‘Good’ Friday?

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Why do we call this day good? Christ was crucified, after brutal treatment. We have ‘Holy Thursday’ and ‘Holy Saturday’, but why is this day ‘Good’?

I had the pleasure of intereviewing Fr. Richard John Neuhaus a while back on his book Death on a Friday Afternoon Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. We talked on Holy Thursday, and Fr. Neuhaus was eloquent in person as he is in the book, explaining that this time encompasses all time. He said “All time was there, is there, at the cross…Do not rush to the conquest. Stay a while with this day. Let your heart be broken by the unspeakably bad of this Friday we call good.”

One thing to contemplate, he said, is this: “Something has gone dreadfully wrong with the world and with us in the world. Things are out of whack. It’s not all our fault, but it’s our fault, too.”

Understanding our modern culture, he said: “Groveling is out, self-esteem is in. And if self-esteem seems not quite the right note for Good Friday, at least our complicity in doing what’s wrong can be understood as…limited liability.”

He quoted Alexander Solzhenitsyn who wrote: “The line between good and evil runs through every human heart.” Neuhaus said we would “draw the line between ourselves, and the really big-time sinners. For them, the cross may be necessary. For us, a forgiving wink from an understanding Deity will set things right, no?

“No, and that’s the reason for this day of atonement,” he said, “‘at-one-ment”, setting things right again. And in this perfect act of collusion between the Father and the Son, by an act of perfect love, we are reconciled.”

“And now we know,” says Fr. Neuhaus, “why this awful…and awe-filled Friday, is called good.”

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