Good Friday

By the time I awoke this morning, we had already had our Good Friday rain. You may be wondering what I mean by this, so let me explain.

When I was growing up, my mother claimed that it rains on every Good Friday, even if it is just a few raindrops. She said this rain is God’s teardrops falling from the heavens, in remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion.

You can imagine my disbelief when I was a teenager. I argued there is no way to know if it rains all over the world on that particular day. Mem just calmly told me to notice whether it rains on Good Friday in the years to come.

I have not kept track of every year since then, but I have never seen a Good Friday go by without some rain in the years in which I was paying attention. The fact that I still remember this means something.

Believing in what Mem told me is like believing in the story of the fairy stones. (David had given me one of those years ago when we parted as I returned to my Amish community.)  According to legend, fairies were dancing in a circle when a stranger brought them the sad news of Jesus’ crucifixion in a faraway land. The fairies, so saddened by this story, began to weep. Their tears fell on the earth and crystallized in the form of crosses. Here you can read a more detailed version of the fairy legend.

 

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Fairy Stones

When I heard this legend, it was born into my imagination, as was the story Mem told me all those years ago about rain on Good Friday. Both have empathy as their central theme. This is fitting in light of the stories we know of how Jesus showed empathy for others’ suffering on so many occasions. It is in these stories of Jesus’ empathy that I most recognize his holiness.

Last night I did something I’ve never done before. I attended a Maundy Thursday service at our church. The Amish did not really celebrate Maundy Thursday, though they did celebrate Good Friday as a holy day. Church members did not work on that day, but spent the morning fasting, praying, and reading scripture in their own homes. It was considered a solemn day. The service I attended last night reminded me of the solemnity.

Here in our part of the world, darkness gathers at this time of the year between 7:00 and 7:30, especially when it is cloudy as it was last night. People gathered in the church sanctuary at 7:oo. Nine candles were lit at the front of the church. Nine people, all dressed in black, sat in the front row. First we prayed and sang hymns. Then one person at a time, from the front row, read a part of the passion story. As they finished, they snuffed out one candle and then sat in a pew further back in the sanctuary.

After all the candles had been snuffed, we solemnly sang that evocative hymn “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” with only a dim overhead light. We sang it sitting, without accompaniment. Four verses, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord”, “Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?”, “Were you there when they pierced him in the side?”, and “Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?”

As the last notes of the song faded, the sanctuary darkened. We recited the Lord’s prayer, and then all left the church in silence and in darkness.

The service had lasted only half an hour, but I found it to be so powerful and so moving. Usually when I’ve heard the passion story, it was followed immediately by the resurrection story. Leaving the story in the sad, dark part was so poignant to me because it felt like we were allowing a time and space to fully enter into the story of Jesus’ suffering.

Last night something from the passion story really struck a chord for me. When Jesus was alone in the garden, he prayed to God that he may be delivered from his hour of suffering. This is so human, to want to avoid suffering and sorrow. Jesus then concluded his prayer that God’s will be done. Even in his darkest hour, Jesus had the humility to accept as God’s will the suffering he knew awaited him.

I know that on Easter Sunday we will hear the story of Jesus’ resurrection. It will be more uplifting than the story we heard last night. Likely it will be even more so because of the sorrow we honored in the darkened sanctuary last night. But it is important for me to remember that without the crucifixion, the resurrection would not have happened. Jesus’ story reminds me that without suffering and sorrow, one cannot fully experience joy and enlightenment. I often think about spring as being the time of new beginnings, but rarely do I take time to honor the sad endings that often precede these beginnings. That is what it felt like we were doing last night.

Perhaps Mem was right that the rain falling from the heavens on Good Friday is God shedding tears for Jesus’ suffering (and perhaps human suffering in general). I certainly found myself thinking about the rain this morning in that way. And last night I found myself wearing my fairy stone earrings. It seems both these stories have not only entered into my imagination but that they will remain there for the rest of my days.

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17 thoughts on “Good Friday”

  1. Thank you for sharing your Thurs. evening experience….Very Moving! Sending blessings your way for a wonderful EASTER~

  2. Thank you for that beautiful description of Thursday night. I have heard of fairy stones in the past but didn’t know what they were or the story behind them, lovely! It was overcast here in Pittsburgh, windy and cold with a light rain off and on all day, like most Good Fridays. I can honestly say I’m glad, it helps me to remember what the day is all about. Keeps me in a thoughtful, prayerful mood. Thank you Saloma for sharing your experience and observations, your words greatly moved me.
    A joyful Easter to you, David and the boys.

    1. Pamela, thank you for your thoughts. I should have asked people to share whether it rained in their part of the world. Thank you for that detail.

      I appreciate your good wishes for our Easter. And my you and your family experience a joyful Easter as well.

  3. What a nice story about the tears Saloma! In Holland there it was raining yesterday!
    And also beautiful that Maundy Thursday. In our church we have the Holy Meal at Thursday evening and we go to church in the evening at Good Friday.
    Have a blessed Easter!

    1. Sonja, a blessed Easter to you as well. Isn’t that interesting that three of you had rain on Good Friday in very different parts of the world. Wouldn’t it be fun to do a research project to find out how true Mem’s claim is? My guess is that in desert areas in the world, it may not be. But who knows?

      Happy Easter!

  4. Thank you for sharing these stories. In my family, we have the joke that it’s always beautiful on Good Friday and cold/rainy/etc. on Easter, but I like your mother’s belief much better.

    Thank you especially for sharing your story of the Maundy Thursday service. I grew up Catholic, and Holy Thursday is when the last Mass is held before the celebration of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. At the end of the Mass, the priest strips the altar of all its cloths and decoration, and the lights are turned off. Good Friday service is always performed with a bare altar. It gives me the shivers remembering it. Though I am Quaker now and we do not have special holiday celebrations, I certainly appreciate the power of ritual and symbols in worship.

    1. Thank you for sharing your memories, Emily. That Catholic ritual sounds like it includes powerful symbolism.

      I have attended quite a few Quaker meetings, and I loved the quiet of them, but I also missed the rituals… especially the singing. However, when I attend most church services, I often miss the quiet that allows for inner reflection.

      Happy Spring!

  5. I missed our Maundy evening service this year and it indeed makes Easter much more meaningful to really spend time with the darkness and solemnity with brothers and sisters in the church. Thanks for the description.

  6. Beth A. Sholly

    I wonder if the events of Holy Week resonated so deeply with you this year due to the recent events, i.e., not getting the Fulbright Scholarship. That was a hard hit and I would think lead to feelings similar to those found in the betrayal, death, and resurrection of Christ. It’s a thought. Peace be with you….

    1. Hello Beth. That thought occurred to me as well. However, my struggle of finding my rightful path is so minimal compared to what Jesus suffered, that it doesn’t even compare. Though, I think we tend to have more compassion for stories of others’ struggles and suffering when we ourselves are struggling.

      Peace to you as well, and Happy Spring!

  7. I appreciate your description of the moving Maundy Thursday service. Maundy Thursday is my favorite “holiday” of the year–even above Christmas and Easter. As a child in the Lutheran church, I sat in the darkened sanctuary beholding the dimly lit cross above the alter and knew something special, meaningful, and mysterious happened that night. As an adult I’ve grown deeper in awareness of the depth of that night, and set aside some special time to be with Christ in a meaningful way here in my home. A close time of fellowship.

    I loved the legend of the fairy stone. Growing up I thought it rained on every Good Friday, but I don’t know if anyone told me that. Have you heard of the legend of the dogwoods?

    Legend of the Dogwood

    At the time of the crucifixion, the dogwood had reached the size of the mighty oak tree. So strong and firm was the wood that it was chosen as the timber for Jesus’ cross.

    To be used for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the dogwood. While nailed upon it, Jesus sensed this, and in his compassion said. “Because of your pity for my suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used for a cross. Henceforth, it shall be slender, bent, and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross–two long and two short petals.

    “In the center of the outer edge of each petal will be the print of nails. In the center of the flower, stained with blood, will be a crown of thorns so that all who see it will remember.”

    from “Sower’s Seeds Aplenty: Fourth Planting,” # 29, p. 22

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