(I’m still working on Marriage part IV, but the season necessitates a divergence)
It’s Good Friday. It’s the best Friday. All other Fridays of the year are only half-hearted symbols of anticipation for this Friday. It’s a day to be somber and reflect—and I’ll do that later today, but this morning Good Friday is about celebration. It’s a holiday (you know because the banks are closed). It’s a Holy Day.
There’s a common sentiment among those who fancy that they are clever when they point out that Christianity simply adopted the old, pagan holidays of the Europeans and that Easter is really just the traditional celebration of Spring. The eggs are symbols of fertility; the rabbits are symbols of . . . well you know what rabbits are famous for right? And it’s based upon the phases of the moon! How much more pagan can you get?
People who devalue the Christian aspect of Easter like this are theologically or spiritually illiterate, I feel, because they miss the whole point of the phenomenon. This is what Christianity does. It takes over. The people who were celebrating the coming of Springtime and the rebirth of the world heard the gospel and realized the truth. They realized what Spring had been pointing to for centuries and centuries. They realized that the cycle of birth and death, harvest and planting, shedding and budding—had been a symbol, a shadow of things to come.
They did the same things then that we do now. It is human nature to look at the natural world and make it mystical. We revel in ideas of rebirth and reincarnation, of dying stars forming heavy elements which formed us. We make our clocks into circles because that’s how we like to think of time: always looping back, always beginning again after it has ended. It’s romantic and idealistic, and it’s completely shattered by the Resurrection.
The pagan idea of rebirth is a returning to old things, a returning to toil. Spring is nice, but it’s going to lead to the same summer that we had last year. Nothing really changes. Reincarnation is a nice idea, until you think of it as an infinite loop. Who wants to always relive the struggles of this life?
Christ did not come preaching rebirth, he came urging men to be born again—not again into the old form, not according to water, but according to the spirit. Into the new, into the eternal.
For the Christian, today is a day of somber reflection on what humanity did to God-incarnate: what we would have done if we had been in the same place. But it is not a sad day because there is Sunday looming on the horizon. There’s a Mountain behind the Molehill. There’s the testimony of John, and we now this testimony is true, that on the third day the tomb was empty.
Ours is no vain hope in the Conservation of Mass and Energy. Ours is no mere consolation about the inevitability or reality of death. Ours is the bursting realization that there is an end. That even death will stop one day. That death now is only a sleep, and the resurrection follows on its heels.