The Easter Vigil

Good Friday is a preface to the coming Easter, where pain, death and the shedding of the Sacred Blood of God’s Sacrificial Lamb, become one and the same with the joy of eternal redemption. There is no Easter without a Good Friday, as is known to every Catholic. However, one of the prominent concerns that I often hear from people who do not understand the mystery of Good Friday, just before leaving to attend the Stations of the Cross at church, is this: “Don’t walk in the sunlight. It could cause you health issues; don’t walk in the dust; are you okay with walking such a long distance?” The ‘concern’ is often grounded on the worldly notion of comfort derived from personal prominence. But on Good Friday, comfort is not derived from the prominence of the individual self; on the contrary, it is through the union of our suffering with that of Christ that we find comfort. Christ is the comforter, even when he was on his cross. 

We don’t seek comfort separated from redemption. There is no value to comfort if it doesn’t lead us to the path shown by Christ. Comfort is not even a virtue, it is a gift by God’s Grace. And in following Christ with our crosses, little crosses, compared to his Holy Cross, heavy nevertheless, we accept our shortcomings, limitations, and failures. We walk with him carrying our sinful nature with us, our cross. Anyone who has followed Christ with their cross must have noticed a certain comfort and relief in one’s heart, even though the very act of carrying the cross is painful and agonising.  

Jesus is the comforter. In the fallen body, he comforts us. The most comforting of all are his words regarding his mother, while he was on the cross. “Woman, behold your son!” (John 19: 26) and, “He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!”” (John 19:27). Gifting us his mother, comforting his sheep that even if he is not seen around us, there is still his mother to resort to. And then comes Holy Saturday, a day of silence. The sheep scattered, when they flogged the shepherd. It’s a day of prayerful meditation. It’s also a day when we await the return of our Saviour. He had promised us during his time with us that he would come back from death in three days. He had said this several times, yet the mind of the rational being that we are, often rejected the promise of the Messiah with hopelessness. 

In today’s world also, hopelessness and tragedy are more acceptable to people than the promise of eternal life, which is gifted by God at the price of your accepting God and rejecting sin (the absence of God.) The world seems to stand with those other gangs of people under the cross on Good Friday, the ones who mocked Christ. 

The group of mockers were another relevant theme to meditate upon during Good Friday and Holy Saturday. There is no Good Friday without the pain and agony that Christ endured, and there is no pain without the pain of being mocked. Those mockers who mocked Christ and asked him to come down from the cross to save himself didn’t know how he was going to come back, or even, if he was going to come back from death at all. They mocked him and jeered at him. On Facebook, I happened to notice a picture posted by a friend of mine, an author, in which he is lying down on the floor in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt with his two dogs on both sides. His arms were hugging the dogs. He had written a caption that read, something like this: “Spending time with them; this makes it a Good Friday”. (words are not copied, but the sense is the same.)

This author had no intention of being kind or tolerant towards the faith of his fellow beings, even though he writes books on Indian culture and mythology, and how it is all scientific. He also had a very clear intention to mock the picture of Jesus crucified between two thieves, following the footsteps of those who crucified Christ between the two thieves, proclaiming their false victory once again on Good Friday, after 2000 years. 

What grieves me is the fact that I still call this person my friend. I have to, and I must pray for him because that is what Christ taught me. I have no way to retaliate when I see my God mocked and jeered at, while this person languishes in his shorts, making a conscious effort to make himself look like the modern, educated, upper-class Indian. What he essentially does is mock Indian culture, a culture that has always accepted other cultures and faiths with reverence. The tragedy is that this author still writes books on Indian mythology and quasi-science. 

Easter is what God granted to those who mocked the Meek One, those who Crucified the Son of God. Those who mocked Christ crucified between two thieves didn't know that He was going to defeat death and come out of his tomb. Just like that friend of mine who couldn't understand the Saving Grace of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. 

Easter is also a very physical event that transforms the gruesome cross of Good Friday into a memory and a very powerful symbol. The Holy Cross of Christ is now an ensign, an emblem that his sheep gather under. 

Those hurt and wounded, who lived carrying the pain of their master’s death, visit the rented tomb, in which Jesus’s body was buried. They confront an angel. Those who go through the suffering of Christ, those who are mocked and jeered at, often encounter angelic presences in their lives. Those women who visited the tomb of Jesus also saw an angel. “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Mathew 28: 5, 6) 

It's Easter. He has risen. This is the answer to the cross you bear. The cross is your sinfulness, your incorrigible darkness, your problems, your flaws, and your shortcomings. With the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his death, he renews his promise to mankind affirmatively that we can experience resurrection into eternal life through Him. 

Happy Easter. 

Anu Lal