No person alive will ever celebrate again Good Friday as we do today. It will be over 140 years until, once more, the Church commemorates the Passion of the Lord on this date, 25 March. And whilst this may not, in and of itself, appear to be of particular interest or importance, we might recognise its significance when we recall that it is on this date that we usually celebrate the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord to Our Blessed Lady: that is, the day of the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to Our Lady, and Christ’s conception in her womb. Exactly nine months before the feast of the Lord’s nativity, this feast serves not only as a signpost that directs our gaze toward the coming of Christ as man, but also to recall the inalienable dignity of every human life, from conception until natural death: a sign that God in Christ has infused our human nature with his very self.
Given on Good Friday 2014 at Saint John the Evangelist, Calgary
There is perhaps no single day when the Church’s rites and ceremonies speak more profoundly and clearly of the faith she professes, than this. In every solemn gesture and action, she expresses in ritual form today the very essence of her life in a sacramental way: an exterior sign of an interior reality. The purpose of the sacred liturgy is never to teach the Christian faithful, but to shape them by their participation in the very life of the Blessed Trinity. By the worship that we offer here we are formed and conformed in a physical way to the via crucis, the way of the cross, along which we tentatively tread. We are united to the passion of Our Lord so intimately and so completely, that we share in his sufferings in a more than merely figurative way.
Given at Our Lady of the Assumption & Saint Gregory, Warwick Street:
In a few moments we will participate in what, to the world, must seem to be a ritual which is at best peculiar, and at worst perverse. In solemn procession, the very instrument by which our Lord and Saviour was executed will be carried aloft through the body of the church, to be adored and venerated. We will kneel and we will kiss the wood of the cross to which, because of our sins, our Lord was nailed. It is a sign of extreme contradiction, calling the cross the Crux fidelis inter omnes – the ‘faithful cross above all other’, the ‘one and only noble tree’.
This contradiction, though, shouldn’t surprise us: the Christian life is full of such juxtapositions. Today we ‘sing the praise of him who died’; tomorrow we rejoice at the felix culpa, the ‘happy fault’ of Adam’s sin, and at the paschal waters of the baptismal font we even talk about dying in order to live. Such contradictions not only speak clearly of the truths of our religion – the way we understand the fundamental nature of the life we share in Christ – but they are the source of our hope. In the face of inevitable earthly death, we Christians are given the hope of eternal life, and so we look gladly towards that moment when this life will be changed into the life offered to us in Christ. In the face of every human fear and anxiety, we are presented with joy and hope because, in the action of Christ on the cross – the very thing we celebrate today – death has been put to death, and in his resurrection we can join with Mary Magdalene in the beautiful Sequence for Easter Day, as we say, Surrexit Christus spes mea – Christ my hope is arisen.