catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 6 :: 2007.03.23 — 2007.04.06


A day to remember

Since I come from a country in which, though it has an established church, religion seems to play a much smaller part in most peoples' lives, it was quite a surprise to move to the more explicitly "religious" United States and discover that Good Friday isn't a public holiday.

Raised in a context where the churches were visible around town on that day, and in a tradition where church-going is a normal part of that particular feast, I had to work to wrap my mind around the idea that the local Christian college only recently started closing on Good Friday.

As I've spent time with the notion I've become aware of the mélange of implications that brings. When people have to work, it's hard to ask them to attend a three-hour service of meditation through the afternoon. But when people are asked to deal with obstacles it can lead to a greater sense of shared purpose, as seemed to be present at the gatherings in members' homes organized by the church I attended during my first Holy Week in the USA.

They could not easily meet during the day, so they had to work out a different plan. And because they had to work out a different plan the events took on a higher profile amongst the members than a "regular" service might. Even for the visitor I then was, there was something very special about the shared meal and that liturgy repeated simultaneously in homes spread out across the city.

It seems that such celebrations are not the norm, and in most cases Good Friday slips us by. I occasionally find myself wondering if that plays into or comes out of the general confusion so many Christians and so many Churches have about the comparative importance of (and the relationship between) crucifixion and resurrection. Both are part and parcel of the business of redemption and neither can be understood without the other, but they are also distinct space-time events with distinct meanings. It's rare to find a holistic theology that doesn't overplay one or the other, or conflate them into one jumbled confusion. Taking time out to celebrate them separately, to understand each in its own right, may in turn help us understand their conjunction more profoundly.

Celebrating a festival that's not a fixture of the dominant culture is an option Christians rarely have, but it's one that could profoundly affect us. There's a solidarity about it, a mystery, and a sense of purpose. Maybe celebrating Holy Week, and Good Friday in particular, offers us that, and an opportunity to hone our theology along the way.

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