Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

Dear God.

First, the frenzied, howling Sanhedrin. Slapping, punching, spitting all the while ... perhaps kicking him if he fell. During the night watch, his anxiety and fear for what he knew was coming was so great that the net of blood vessels around his sweat glands constricted, then hemorrhaged. Hematidrosis. As a result, his skin is extremely fragile and sensitive; every punch and slap is exquisitely painful.

The humiliation of the crowning as Rex Iudaeorum: not a wreath or circlet but a cap woven out of branches from the local thorn bushes, each thorn a nail in his scalp, with a staff made out of reed for a scepter ... a scepter with which he was struck like a club.

But that wasn't enough. Two Roman soldiers with flagella: whips of leather, with small bones tied to the ends which ripped the skin off his back and tore pieces of muscle out. Tied to a post, there was no way he could move, even involuntarily, that would avoid the clawing fragments that shredded his back. There's no way I can not hear him screaming his agony; slaves had been known to die as a result of the forty lashes.

Then the crossbeam is loaded onto his shoulders, raw and bleeding from the whips, bringing a fresh agony. Weakened, his heart already beginning to be squeezed and his lungs filled by fluids, he stumbles along the travertine-paved road from the castra praetoria to the place called Golgotha. He has probably already lost a liter of blood, if not more: category 3 shock numbs his mind but doesn't deaden the pain. He stumbles once, twice, a third time ... a passer-by is dragooned into helping him, not for mercy's sake—what Roman soldier chose mercy over duty?—but to speed things up: the Galilean isn't moving quickly enough.

What's left of his clothes—mere blood-sodden rags by now. except for the cloak—are stripped off, and his arms tied to the crossbeam. Then the incredible thunderclap of pain as the first nail is driven through his hand, grating the median nerve in its passage; his vocal cords already raw with the agony of his scourging are yet torn again by his screams. The hypostasis perfect, the God feels what the Man feels (He has always known this pain in His eternal Being; there is no moment where He does not feel the shattering, piercing metal sunder his flesh). Another nail, another wave of blasting torment—a third rip, this time through both feet—and then the ache as his horror is lifted vertical.

Staying alive to say the things he must say is an ongoing torture in itself. If he lets his weight sag down, his diaphragm is compressed, he can't draw enough air in. So he must force his transfixed feet to take his weight and push himself up, the movement causing the nails in his hands to rub the median nerves. He still loses blood from his back, as well as his four new wounds (even plugged, so to speak, by the horrific spikes). A promise to a thief he's never encountered before—a gift of a grieving mother to a weeping disciple—"I thirst", and a sponge full of sour wine lifted to his lips—and then a line from a psalm that seems to open an awful abyss, a place no man may enter to understand, where God had abandoned himself.

And then he is dead. I killed him. And so did you.

"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and TAKE UP HIS CROSS and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:24-25).
Elise's post at Kissing the Leper is an almost perfect dovetail:

What made Christ do what He did for us today?  What forced Him to carry that cross, stand and be scourged, spit upon, shouted at?  What made him lay still as the spikes were forced into his hands and feet?

Nothing...but Love.

There was no law that forced Christ into what He did.  Nothing on earth or in Heaven compelled it.  He said Himself that if He only asked, a legion of angels would be sent by His Father to help Him.

It was only His Love for you that kept him pinned on that Cross.  It was only His Love for you that forced him done a hot, dusty road, arms aching, blood pouring out of countless wounds to a hill outside of Jerusalem.  It was only His Love for you that made Him endure pain, thirst, fear.  He was stripped and tortured...because He loves you.

Today, this Good Friday, remember that most of all, love is not some fuzzy emotion of greeting cards and teenage angst.  Love is not a feeling of wanting to please another.  Love is not a desire to be wanted and waited upon.

Love is doing what is best - always - for the other.  And the best is helping that person become holy, as God wishes them to be holy, to be with Him always.

Remember that today, Good Friday, is not about following the law of fasting and abstinence (although those are solid practices), about laws of the Church.  Today is about Love.

See you all on Sunday.