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Musings on Good Friday

Updated: Mar 30

St Patrick's Chapel, Isle of Tiree

This morning, while I kneaded the dough for hot cross buns, my daughters were discussing their plans for the day. They were intending to attend an Easter event and were excited about an Easter egg hunt.

'But it's Good Friday.' I interjected.

'So what?' was their nonchalent response.

My argument, that it's the day that Jesus died and therefore a day of mourning, was roundly rebuffed. They're savvy enough to recognise that when I'm riled about something, it's worth trying to win me over on my own terms just in case I refuse them a lift and consign to them some activity more suited to an expression of grief.

'It's still Easter.' they tried.

'You know that he rose anyway, so you can begin celebrating today.' was another contribution.

I pondered this. I grew up in an Evangelical Baptist household where it was believed that those who didn't believe in the brutal death and resurrection of Jesus could look forward to an even more brutal eternity. I have long since dispensed with that way of looking at the world and I'm glad to say that my daughters don't have any of the hang ups that I had – that I might not be good enough to get into heaven and therefore doomed to interminable hellfire. The story, however, still has meaning and resonannce for me. The cycle of death and rebirth is an archetypal movement; it has a rhythm to which we can attune ourselves. This goes beyond whether Jesus himself lived the life the gospels describe or not. Regardless whether one believes that the cross has salvific purpose, we can still bear witness to that which has died or ended in our lives. It's not necessary to espouse a doctrinal position in favour of bodily resurrection to know deep in your heart that out of the pain of loss can arise something beautiful and new.

As I added spice to the dough, I wondered how to encourage the children to experience what has become so important to me about Easter. The shared ritual of marking a mythic death has a cathartic quality that our secular death phobic society does everything it can to sugar coat. When I was in Ethiopia, I had spent a number of Easter days at a remote monastery. Lent for the monks, is a time of extreme fasting, and Easter Sunday a day of feasting and celebration. Good Friday is spent at the church praying and genuflecting in repentence. A time of saying sorry. This pattern of fasting, praying and feasting appeals to me.

I settled on inviting the children to share around the breakfast table, what it is that they were sad about from the past year. Something killed, broken or lost. We talked about our little cat friend, Mochi, knocked down by a car and their Wendy House that couldn't be moved to our new house. This was a big one for us. It represented everything we had lost in our experience of being homeless. They reflected on what they missed from our family home and the temporary home where we had resided before moving to our new place. They expressed sadness over food that had been thrown out after an infestation of woodworm in the larder, things that had been lost or broken in the move, and the loss of space. We just talked about our sadness about these things and it felt good to acknowledge them. We weren't tempted to begin planning a new Wendy House or dismissing our regret about the loss of space because at least our new house is cosy ... we just acknowledged the pain of what we had lost.

The sombre moment passed lightly into a lively discussion about aliens and silly jokes – children have an easy time shifting from pain to trivia to comedy. After breakfast, the children went off to their Easter games and egg hunt and I walked to St Patrick's chapel to meditate. I still felt the need for reflection and stillness, and I still resisted the mixed metaphors of chocolate eggs on Good Friday but I am comforted that I had been able to share something significant with my daughters about how to navigate loss, to notice and celebrate endings and to allow for the feelings associated with loss to be truly felt.

As a day of mourning and repentence, Good Friday, serves our souls well. It gives us the chance to practice so that when death and loss come knocking for us, we have a rudimentary map to guide us through the pain.

What are your experiences of Good Friday?

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