When “Religion” doesn’t describe it

April 3, 2015


crown of thornsThe term “religion” turns pallid on Good Friday.  It’s an ashen and anemic word.  It needs to gulp down aspirin and climb back in bed.  The term conveys systems and structures and institutions, whether they’re of thinking or of administration.  It isn’t a bad term (spirituality and theology mandate structures like everything else), but it doesn’t do this day justice.

Good Friday cripples our systems and structures and institutions.  It’s a day of intentional, redemptive chaos: God, the creator and sustainer of the universe and the font of life itself, cries out alienation from himself and dies.  God has become human and walks the full human path.  God does not halt and howl “stop” before the horror.  He presses on.  The human God experiences our human condition, justifies us, (he has died for our sins), and represents us.  God drinks in our plea, melds it into himself, and shoves it into the heavens: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Which allows us to approach God with confidence.  As one New Testament author writes: “ Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

“Religion” often portrays humanity’s pursuit of God.  Good Friday tells the story of God’s pursuit of humanity.  God hounded us so much that He lived a human life, endured the human horror, and fused our appeal into himself.

Much eloquence has been written in this year’s Tridumm.  Some samples:

Terrance W. Klein meditates on the “Savage Sacred” in the Jesuit publication, America.  A quote:

In teaching that the divine became the human, Christianity directly assaults the distinction between the holy and the mundane.  One might even say that there is something savage in the sacredness of the Christ.  If tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of heaven, it is because, in the ardent Christ, the kingdom itself has become aggressive, expansive.  It doesn’t stay within the boundaries, which the human requires to discern the holy.  The Gospel establishes a relentless vortex: the sacred maintains itself by raiding the secular.

For more, tap this link.

The Behemoth published a poem by Christina Rossetti.  It begins:

Am I a stone and not a sheep

That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy Cross,

To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,

And yet not weep?

Here is the link to the full poem:  The Behemoth.

Joseph McAuley writes a letter to Saint Dismas, the legendary name for the “Good Thief” who begged forgiveness of Jesus on his cross.  That thief gives us much hope:

Your request and Jesus’ response present a very poignant moment on a very dark day. When all seemed lost and hopeless, that hill on Calvary presented something otherwise, which is why we call it “Good Friday.”  Because of your actions on that afternoon, Saint Dismas, you showed that nothing is impossible or unobtainable and that Jesus, even in His suffering, was more than eager to show that.  In doing what you did, and saying what you said, you showed everyone that in the darkest of moments, there is hope to be grasped and how badly we need it, in spite of who we are and whatever it is we have done; that it is possible to find our way out of the darkness and into the light, if only we are willing to recognize that. And you, the “thief,” in one last act, “stole” that opportunity for us, which resonates so much, even now.

For more, follow this: Good Friday, A Speaking Silence.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern


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