I have always found the terminology–really the nomenclature–of holidays to be disproportionately goofy. At least in terms of the coolness: importance ratios.
Let’s just take Halloween for instance. Now, before I even talk about this, understand. The minute a Christian begins to wax at ALL about this thing, the Wiccan brigades start showing up in the margins, attempting to disambiguate the Druid vs. Pagan vs. white witch vs. libertarian Satanist log-rolling contest for progenitorship. This is why I would never try to write about the Civil War; eighteen guys would show up at my doorstep in confederate clothing arguing that it should be called “The war Between the States,” or even “The War of Northern Aggression.”
Besides, I smell pachouli.
Please understand. I don’t care. I care, because it’s the holiday in which one is legitmized to run around acting the fool. And to a young man growing up, it was far cooler than others. Yeah, yeah. I get it. I’m with you on the hypocritical way in which public schools can celebrate what is, arguably a religious holiday. But hey. That’s the way it was supposed to be.
Say what you will, but no harvest parties, fall festivals, rituals, dogmatic replications or sanitized pagentry substitutes will ever supplant devils, spectres, goblins, apparitions, poltergeists and nether-plasma that populate that holiday. At not ONE time, have I found myself at a red light, idling behind a Honda Fit with a bumper sticker saying Let’s Keep Satan In Halloween. The earnest All Hallow’s Eve Lobbyist isn’t around–because he isn’t needed.
Christmas–the actual birth of Christ–was somehow displaced by another quasi-omnipresent, overweight philanthropic elf. Yeah, yeah. He keeps lists, too. he knows who’s been naughty and nice.
He also could care less.
So the birth of Christ has a cool name, but it has been car-jacked without being lo-jacked. We keep having to rescue it when we see it on the road.
Somehow, the Death, Burial, and Resurrection–the things that actually comprise the structural underpinnings for Gospel message–gets a name all washed out like “Easter.” Now I realize, the name might have deep significance, but along the line the mental picture raised when invoked has little to do with sin, redemption, power, separation, abominations, darkness, death, rejection, salvation, sacrifice–along with the earthquakes and subterranean thunders that raised the dead.
Nope. I smell vinegar and water colors,and see baskets of appallingly-ugly colored grass. The only real warm rush of nostalgia are the memories of my girls looking for eggs in their little Sunday dresses.
Good Friday–just let that sink in for a minute–stands as the most paradoxically-named one of all. Yes, it was good — but it certainly wasn’t safe.
Wresting this one from the svengali-like trance of Americanized, felt-board hermeneutics is little rough. Garden-variety passion plays have lulled you and I to assume that the repartee in the Garden of Gethsemane is some academic, gamesmanship scrimmage between actors of Elizabethan bent. And I don’t care what theologian weighs in on the biblical translation controversy–The King James Version could be subpoenaed for the silly, schematic feel given to one of the pinnacle moments in world history. Romanized Kabuki theater at its best:
SOLIDERS: Stand aside, foul hooligans, we are taking this rogue hippy to crucify him!
PETER: (Grabbing sword) Stand back, you uncircumcised specter! I shall smite thine ear from thine head! (swipes ear from soldier’s head. Scene freezes, as all stand in horror of aural amputation)
JESUS: (picks up ear, puts it back. heals soldier, and all are amazed). My kingdom will not be established by the SWORD!
And before anyone thinks I’m being sacrilegious, I’m not. My lack of gravity here and on purpose is illustrating the lack of gravity we are guilty of–in the latent sense.
Occasionally, I’ll hear a minister broach the subject of the Crucifixion–you know, the details; the cross, the beatings, the floggings–all of that. That was also the main idea behind the supposed, visceral “controversy” behind Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. But the thing about that film that really nailed me was the Garden scene.
Sad as it may seem, it took an R Rated film to shake me into the understanding that the betrayal and ultimate arrest in the garden scene was one of chaos and wrath, testosterone and flailing, misappropriation of closed-fist blows, delivered in the sheer and gritty dark of the night. Haymakers weren’t making hay and most likely a Roman soldier took some friendly fire in the execution of their duties. Physical conflict between angry, passionate men is an ugly, ugly process.
Chances are the only people that perhaps knew a soldier’s ear had been lopped of are Jesus, Peter, and the agent of said ear. Chaos, and the “fog of war” have a way of diluting the immediate nature of even major bloodlettings–The point being: Jesus knew, and He made sure to say right then and there–His Kingdom would not be established by the sword.
But he did say–that the fulfillment of all prophecies would be ultimately carried out by those with the greatest contempt for it. THAT–is what I call aplomb. THAT–is what I call unabated gall. I mean think about it. You’re a government official, and some soft-spoken roustabout is messing with your chi–prattling about His “Kingdom.” And he specifically tells you, “you’re going to kill me–to the fulfillment of all scripture.” Do YOU:
1) Kill him and fulfill it–even though you hate him?
2) Keep him alive and frustrate the little, algorithmic rundown he’s been putting out?
Naturally, the second would be obvious. But it doesn’t seem to work that way, does it?
And it isn’t working that way now. And I can put one word out there that will illustrate it.
Every last prophecy points to a day when all the nations of the world will come against Israel.
All it takes to nullify the horrors that follow that prophecy is to not treat Israel like we should treat a legitimately hostile axis power. Seems easy enough.
But it isn’t heading that way at all, is it? Just like some prophecies were laid out, thousands of years in advance pointing to a specific crucible–a specific moment, in which a man would be profiled, framed, given a sham trial, and killed. It was all right there–for everyone to see.
And the blind not only missed it. They fulfilled it. Jesus’ closest confidants were demoralized, beaten down, under surveillance,and ultimately de facto enemies of a state that was predisposed to hate them without any logical arc. Yet–there was a Sunday.
Such is now. Friday–on the world stage–is almost here. This is no time for swords and angst. It’s about simply carrying on until Sunday arrives.
Good Friday is good. It just isn’t safe.
I liked this post, Ron. Concerning what you wrote about the fulfillment of prophecy, I was reminded of this quote from “The Hobbit.”
“Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
That is awesome. I’m not steeped in Tolkein as much as I perhaps should be, so I missed that completely!
That quote was Gandalf talking to Bilbo at the end of “The Hobbit.” The books are much richer and deeper than the movies that were made from them. Tolkien was a Catholic and his faith influenced his writings. His experience as a soldier in WWI probably influenced his work, as well.
“One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.” − J.R.R. Tolkien, Foreword to the Second Edition, The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings
The war was exactly the crucible that forged “Mere Christianity” for Lewis, too–the book is a distilling of modular radio broadcasts by Lewis.
Interesting how the war had such a big effect on both of them, how they both had great literary careers founded in their faith, and how they were both good friends.
True. There is a popular narrative however, that says Tolkien was highly critical of Lewis’ work – – – when the converse wasn’t true.