Sad Friday and Easter Sturday

The ‘torn’ cross – Armenian Chapel, Nativity Church, Bethlehem

Today is Sad Friday in the Orthodox calendar. The time when evening services are held to enact Jesus’ funeral. A sad occasion with flowers, funerial chants and weeping. A time to stop and take stock of what has passed and what is still to come. In the West we call the Friday before Easter Sunday, Good Friday, however have you ever stopped to think what’s so good about it?

The word ‘good’ stems not from positivity but as a term of piousness, a day which is holy to the Church. We don’t always take much notice of it in the Western World. For the most part we are keen to jump from Lent to Easter – glossing over the challenging bit in between. Just as Jesus’ disciples looked with hope to the resurrection, so we too look forward instead of spending time in the moment.

In the Orthodox tradition they stop to decorate churches, prepare special meals, dress in black, and give Jesus a funeral. The epitaphios is placed on the altar surrounded by white blooms, insence and nard are used to bless the altar and the service takes place, after which, we were told, the people remain sad until Easter Saturday and the emergence of the Holy Fire from Jesus’ Tomb in the Holy Sepulchre from where it is taken out to Palestinian towns and cities.

For me, the time taken to reflect on this allows time to stop, think and to truly follow Jesus path to the cross, the cave and ultimately, resurrection. In Israel/Palestine the time to stop and think is vitally important. To think before acting against one another, to think before invading someone elses property, to stop and think before denying someone even the simplest of rights or to stop and think before trying to arrest a child.

After a morning in Bethlehem visiting the Church of the Nativity and Milk Grotto amongst others, we headed to a refugee camp. Here we heard stories of soldiers arriving to take boys away during the night for throwing stones at the wall or checkpoints (or at least that’s the reason given), saw the bullet holes in the doorway to the boys’ school and heard tear gas being released on nearby streets as people set up protests against the situation.

After this harrowing experience all you can do is walk away holding these people suffering so badly, in your prayers, asking that he hold them in the palm of his hand, protect them, and guide them as they look to find a peaceful solution between all sides. Amen

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood–
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

T.S. Elliot

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