Bad Friday

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Let's be honest, calling it Good Friday just doesn't work, well not for me anyway. I have come to terms with my least favourite bank holiday over the years and it doesn't fill me with dread quite as much as it used, but I still find it a somber day.

The day always started with a row in our house due to my brother's plans to spend the day fishing. It's the only time I've been tempted to take up a rod and start reading the Angling Times. Every year the same arguments, responded to in the same way. My mother would rant, play the disappointment card and sulk. My brother would ignore her, mutter under his breath and retreat to the shed to sort out his fishing gear. He never backed down and never came with us to church. One particular year during their exchanges he proclaimed "it's not even a holy day of obligation!" I thought I might spontaneously self combust with joy on hearing this revelation and saw this as my future escape route. My hopes were short lived when she retorted 'it's a poor show if you can't show your face in church on the day Christ died for you'.

Off we would march 'en famille', minus my brother, to church for the 3pm service, not Mass. We never received Communion on Good Friday because 'Jesus' was dead and wouldn't be back till Easter Sunday. The tabernacle doors stood open for all to see it void but am I the only person who wonders where the blessed sacrament goes in the interim? In line with our 'instant' society we do have Communion now in the form of  'pre-consecrated' hosts.

I have always had two issues with Good Friday services: they are too long and you are invited to 'venerate' or 'kiss' the cross. The latter is my biggest problem, why, I don't know. I just feel really uncomfortable with it and now my mother can't make me do it, I don't. I think my initial anxieties were born from this ritual being facilitated by alter boys who I attended school with. I would stand in the queue with clammy palms, heart thumping in my ears, petrified I would be unable to prevent myself from planting a kiss on Our Lord's feet without a big squeaky 'smack' or inadvertently slobbering.

Whatever your religious persuasion or belief I think you would all agree that the Good Friday story doesn't have the feel good factor. Even if you believe it is merely that, a story, it is at best gruesome and at worst barbaric. If the crucifixion story were a fiction novel in the charts I doubt any of us would allow our children to read it, yet we tell them this story every year in church.

I remember huge controversy over the release of Mel Gibson's film 'The Passion of The Christ' and religious leaders expressing concerns that it would 'fuel hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism', so I watched it while ironing one Good Friday, just to cheer myself up. I was shocked by the impact it had on me, I had to stop ironing as the tears began to flow freely. I found it immensely painful to watch and my heart went out to the woman forced to witness the persecution and death of the child she loved, something no mother should ever have to experience. 

The other thing that struck me was the inhumanity of humanity, whatever their colour, race or creed. Centuries later, women still lose their children which is cruel however it happens and people still behave in an inhumane way. Some would consider religion to be a root cause of this but I would argue that people are the cause, by their interpretations or rather misinterpretations of religion. For me Good Friday serves one purpose, to remind me that hatred, bigotry and inhumanity still exist and without the acknowledgement of that we will never abolish it. I am acquiescent, unable to turn the newspaper page with the uncomfortable headline over and ignore what it has to say.

On a lighter note, my brother liked to fish all day on a Sunday too so would often go to Saturday night Mass. Holy Saturday is when the church holds its Easter Vigil. Baptismal water and oils are blessed at this service, so you're looking at a good three hours in church, at least. Off he trotted, in blissful ignorance as to how long he would be there, courtesy of my mother, naturally!