Last night we solemnly celebrated the Last Supper before moving the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose outside of the sanctuary. This was to symbolize the agony in the garden that Christ suffered through the night before his betrayal and subsequent execution. As part of a long standing tradition, we visited all of the Altars of Repose in Fargo at Holy Spirit, St. Paul’s, St. Mary’s, St. Anthony’s, Nativity, and Sts. Anne and Joachim. It was sombering. The whole atmosphere was one of painful anticipation, of sorrow, of apprehension, of fear. When we were at Sts. Anne and Joachim, the flowers around the altar weren’t exceptionally ornate or anything, but it just struck me that Christ had escaped into the garden to feel close to his Father, that the flowers and plants growing there brought him comfort. And how couldn’t they? They were his idea! When he fashioned them, he made them, perhaps, for the explicit purpose of bringing him joy and comfort at a moment that was so desperately troubling.
And thus we are lead into Good Friday. There is no Mass celebrated, and the liturgy is quite different. That altar is bare. The crucifix is covered up. We solemnly take Communion from whatever consecrated hosts are currently in the tabernacle. There is no entrance or recessional hymn, and you suddenly get this vacant, empty feeling in your stomach. Then you realize that the emptiness is your own fault. It was your own sins that put Christ on that Cross. It was your iniquities that crushed him, battered him, bruised him, bloodied him, KILLED him. We feel bad when we do something that might cause another minor inconveniences, but do we really feel bad when we comprehend the fact that our actions have killed another person? We are all guilty of yelling “crucify him, crucify him!” Even if we are the sympathetic bystander, we do nothing to stop it from happening, even though we know his innocence. To know that it is my fault is unbearable. To walk out of the liturgy knowing the tabernacle is empty, that God has been killed and laid in a tomb is sickening, even though I know what happens next.
If one really comprehends it, it almost brings you to the point of utter despair. You are Judas, I am Judas, we are Judas. We betray Christ everyday of our lives in one way or another. Judas felt despair afterward over his betrayal and he killed himself. Should we let the despair take over us? Should we lose hope like Judas? No. We cannot. Because this is Good Friday. The whole point of Christ’s death is to bring us hope, not destroy it, and we shall see that in just a few days! If we despair like Judas, we betray Christ more than any other sin we could commit would. Christ gave up everything for us, and to give up on Christ is to make Christ’s sacrifices be in vain. This day, as sad and as tragic as it is is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of new life, the beginning of the conquering of sin and death for those that hope in Christ.
So, yes, this Friday really is good. It is very good. And if you are feeling lonely on this day because of the absence of Christ, turn to Our Lady, who wept out of loneliness on Calvary as her dead son was laid across her lap. Run to her. She understands the sense of loss that we feel, and she loves her son so much and knows that you are his and she will watch over you. She will pray on your behalf. She will love you as only a mother can.
Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us and comfort us, the afflicted. Bring us joyfully to Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection of your son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Redeemer of the world. Do not let us despair on this tragic day, but help us to see the goodness in Good Friday. Amen.