I was raised Roman Catholic, and while our family wasn’t devoutly religious, we were pretty observant. I made my First Holy Communion at age 7, my confirmation when I was 14 and we attended church on a semi-regular basis. Growing up, I also dappled in other religions, Quaker, Pentecostal and even the born-again movement. But, for me the other religions always felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes. I kept missing the peace I felt with liturgical aspects of the Catholic faith. That’s not to say I felt like the Roman Catholic faith for me was a perfect fit either. I married, then divorced, and as I formed my own opinions about birth control, choice and women as church leaders, I felt less and less like the “Roman Catholic shoes” were a perfect fit. It wasnt’ until I found my current church and the episcopal faith did I feel like I had found the perfect shoes to use walking in my faith. I love the ritual, tradition and the fact that I don’t have to check my brain at the door of my episcopal church.
I also love this moment in the liturgical calendar. Holy week is meaningful to me because it makes me pause and think about what Jesus and his message was all about. Even if I didn’t keep my Lenten discipline this year (and almost every year), I know I am profoundly loved and God accepts my imperfect self, as God loves and accepts us all. This was Jesus’ message, and one which was not received in his time by those who felt threatened by it, by those who feared his radical message of love and inclusion. It is still a message which isn’t accepted by those who are fearful of what love and inclusion will do to their power.
I didn’t intend for this to be a preachy post but I have been so moved by what this day, Good Friday, means to me. I attended my church’s Good Friday service today. I loved it. It was solemn, sad, and beautiful. Last night, too, I attended the Maundy Thursday service. It is another one of my favorite services of the year. It is a service which demonstrates the caring and loving example that Jesus showed his disciples. Those of us who wished to, performed the foot washing ritual on each other. At the conclusion of the service, the altar was ceremoniously stripped of its adornments, in preparation for the solemness of Good Friday. Today, at the Good Friday service, the altar bare and the chancel empty, the clergy wearing only their black cassocks and no other vestments, provided a powerful backdrop for the meditations on the meaning of this day. At the conclusion of today’s service I wept as the choir sang the spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified my Lord?” I was moved by the humility of my rector as he knelt with reverence at the chancel steps, I was humbled God’s grace as I realized that Jesus’ life was meant to be the example of perfect love for the human family, and I was filled with joy and anticipation as I realized that this example of love, inclusion and justice is all I need to go out into the world and meet the challenges of life. For me, that is what is good about Good Friday.