Every Easter season, I try to take the time to reread Richard John Neuhaus’ thought-provoking book Death On A Friday Afternoon: Meditations On The Last Words Of Jesus From The Cross. As the title indicates, Neuhaus writes one chapter for each of the seven things Christ said on the cross. The book as a whole is intended to slow us down from a rush toward the day of triumph, Easter Sunday. By fully immersing ourselves in the narrations of Jesus’ suffering and death, we create real tension as we wait for the joy of the empty tomb. The cry “He is risen” takes on far greater meaning when you have taken the time to understand what exactly He has risen from.
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday are considered by Christians to be the three most sacred days of the year. Neuhaus writes that they are, in reality, “the three most sacred days of all time, when time is truly told.”
As Neuhaus calls us to prepare for Easter by contemplating Good Friday, he announces:
By these three days all the world is called to attention. Everything that is and ever was and ever will be, the macro and the micro, the galaxies beyond number and the microbes beyond notice—everything is mysteriously entangled with what happened, with what happens, in these days. This is the axis mundi, the center upon which the cosmos turns. In the derelict who cries from the cross, or so Christians say, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The life of all on this day died. Stay a while with that dying.
And so we shall.
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