1st Reading: Is 52:13-53:12; Psalm: 31. R. v. Lk 23:46b; 2nd Reading: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9; Gospel: Jn 18:1-19:42?
APPRECIATING THE SACRIFICE OF THE CROSS
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Today we celebrate the Lord’s Passion also known as Good Friday. The Holy Mass is traditionally not celebrated on this day because “The figure (Mass) ceases on the advent of the reality.” (St Thomas Aquinas). What this implies is that the sacrifice of the Holy Mass is a figure or a representation of the reality of the Lord’s passion and death. So on this day that we remember this reality, we do not celebrate Mass. However, we must be careful not to think that the Mass is just a mere sign. The Mass though a sign, is actually an efficacious reality that makes Christ’s sacrifice present and alive. So the sacrifice of Good Friday is one and the same with the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.
Good Friday is a day we commemorate the Lord’s passion and our salvation from sin. The consciousness of this salvific action would be reawakened during the ‘Adoration of the Holy Cross’ (which is part of today’s celebration), when the priest processes with the veiled crucifix and makes a three-fold unveiling saying “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world.” And in faith we all respond “Come, let us adore.” So the ‘Good’ in this Friday does not reside in the gruesome and shameful death of Christ but subsists in the salvation won for us by Christ.
After the ‘Adoration of the Cross’, we will notice that the bread and wine are not consecrated. We shall be fed with the bread consecrated a day before (Holy Thursday). This absence of the consecration of the bread and wine highlights that consciousness of our sense of loss on this day that Christ was snatched away by the humiliation of suffering and death. The Mass (which involves the consecration of the bread and wine) is a celebration of Christ’s triumph over death. But today, death conquered Christ which explains the desolate nature of the rites of this celebration.
The cross of Christ which we are going to adore at this celebration is a symbol of victory for us believers. St Theodore the Studite highlighted different events in the Old Testament where the tree of the cross was prefigured. He pointed out that the tree of the cross brought life to cancel the death brought by the tree of the Garden of Eden. He further explained that the wood of the cross was foreshadowed when Abraham bound Isaac on the wood of sacrifice. It was foreshadowed in the wood of Noah’s Ark that enabled him, his family and the pair of animals escape the flood of destruction. It was prefigured in the wooden staff of Moses that led Israel out of slavery performing several wonders in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness. And it was also prefigured in Aaron’s rod that blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood.
Today, these prefigurations come to reality in the cross of Christ. We celebrate the reality of which these prefigurations were a sign. We celebrate the cross of our salvation. Each of us carries the sign of this cross on our forehead when we were anointed thereon at our baptism; a sacramental sign of God’s possession. God therefore has reclaimed us for himself. If God was able to save the Israelites from death by the blood of a lamb smeared at their doorposts, we can then imagine the blessings in store for us as adopted sons and daughters of God signed with the blood of Christ.
So on our part, we need to be conscious of our new identity and live accordingly to preserve it. We should be able to boldly say just like St Paul “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21). This is because we are no longer our own but Christ’s. Henceforth, let our gratitude to God be visible in our words and actions. Let us live like the redeemed people in appreciation to the sacrifice of Christ.
We are sorrowful today yet happy. Evil prevailed on this Friday yet we call it ‘good.’ This uncommon paradox highlights how our God can bring out good out of evil. It also highlights our capacity to transcend to holiness of life from the evil of sin. When we do this, we live out the true meaning of Good Friday. When we do this, we conquer Satan just as Christ conquered him and death.
Happy Good Friday. What a paradox! What a mystery!
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Crucified Jesus, may our lives be a true reflection of the salvation you wrought for us. Amen.