Recent history has seen the sad displacement of traditional Lenten fasting, which has been noted on this site. Yet on this day, Good Friday, Catholics are bound to fast in accordance with the law under pains of mortal sin. Even in an age of laxity, Good Friday stands in contradiction to our comforts and calls us to penance and remembrance.
Classic books of devotion (The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales being a prime example) always recommend for our morning prayer the practice of meditating on the Passion of Our Lord for at least some time. Reading over the Gospel accounts of the cross, especially on this day, is an indispensable practice for spiritual maturity, because although we glory in the Resurrection, we must pass through the cross to arrive there. If this practice has not been front and center, it’s time to run to the cross.
When my young son, who tends toward melancholy, seems particularly burdened by a day’s stresses (being scolded, fights with siblings, tantrums), I often try to pull him aside and speak to him directly. Speaking calmly in truth and love, he will often go from seeming to be hardened and bound to his anger, to being aware of the need within him to change course, which is the literal meaning of “repent”. He feels already the disorder that the passions can wield, and wants freedom. He melts into my arms, and I comfort him because I know that feeling, and so often God has spoken His truth in love to me and I have melted into Him. My son seems to know that he simply cannot “do this” on his own – things are sadly beyond his control, and how sad it is to realize that even our very selves seem out of our control.
Frequently in these moments, after some calm is returned to his spirit, he runs into his room to retrieve his crucifix. If it’s at night he’ll go to bed with it. He doesn’t say much, but he seems to have an intuitive understanding that the mystery of his own sin – with the weakness and burden it creates – and the power of the cross are connected.
He’s right. Meditating on and clinging to the cross not only reveals to us Christ’s great love for us, the extent to which He would go to save us, but it also reminds us of our powerlessness. If we could overcome our weaknesses and sins on our own and Jesus was just a good example, then the crucifixion was a lot of bloody drama. But it was more than that. It is more than that. Seeing Christ broken for us helps our own pride to break down, but most importantly it reminds us that our salvation takes work, but it is His work in us. We cooperate, but the very instant we start to think we can do this on our own we’ve lost. My son seems to feel his weakness and in those moments he runs to the cross. It is a great reminder to me when he does this.
Meditate on the cross daily, and especially this day. Read the Passion accounts slowly. Pray your Rosary. Ponder His wounds. Thank Him. Ask Him to give you the strength to accompany Him. However your Lent or year has been going, now is the time to surrender all of that and let Him work. Be like my young son and run to the cross. And be glad you know where to run.
“What has revealed the love of God, where we are concerned, is that he has sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. That love resides, not in our shewing any love for God, but in his shewing love for us first, when he sent out his Son to be an atonement for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10, Knox).