Bishop Godfrey Fryar
Jerusalem and the events that took place there in 30AD are very much the focus of Christian worship in Holy Week and Easter. While we take up aspects of the great story in our liturgies in the carrying of palms, the washing of feet and ceremonies related to the cross, we are not re-enacting those events but rather are invited to participate in their meaning.
This is seen most clearly in the Easter Vigil held on the night of Holy Saturday or early Easter Day. This service beginning in darkness and then illuminated by the light of the Paschal Candle, dramatically portrays the meaning of Holy Week and Easter where the darkness of death and the brokenness of the world that led Jesus to the Cross is overcome by the Resurrection and its joy.
The origin of the Good Friday and Easter celebrations can be found in what takes place and has been observed since at least the 4th century at the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem.
In the 19th Century the famous British General Gordon, of Khartoum fame, being dissatisfied with the claims of the Church of the Resurrection and its decorations, which he found distasteful, sought to find a new site for Calvary and the tomb of Jesus. The site he located is known as the Garden Tomb or Gordon's Calvary to this day.
This place is historically very unlikely to be accurate, having largely been established to satisfy Protestant sensibilities, while the Church of the Resurrection or Holy Sepulchre as it is also known, stands a very good chance of being established on the actual site of Jesus' death and Resurrection, though the hill and garden tomb have long since disappeared under the weight of devotion.
This old controversy, now widely discounted, is a good example of how prejudice can skew the way we see things, and lead us to reinvent history or theology to suit our own particular tastes.
In the end, where these events happened is much less important than the continuing impact of what took place and the way it touches people's lives to this day.
Still the darkness is being dispelled by the light of Christ, and for this we say Alleluia. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop Godfrey Fryar
The wondrous cross
Holy Week and Easter are fast approaching as we journey through Lent, and their coming is somewhat prematurely heralded each year by the appearance of hot cross buns in shops and bakeries in early February.
While this irritates some Christians, the symbol of the cross on the bun at least can give some people cause for thought and shouldn't be dismissed.
In a number of Churches including the Anglican Communion, each person baptised, whether as a child or later as an adult, is signed on the forehead with the sign of the cross, an invisible but remembered and spiritually continuing mark to remind all who are baptised that, in the words of the Prayer Book, we are "marked as Christ's own forever". That is an extraordinary thing when you think about it.
It is no mistake that culturally, Christians who have died usually will have a cross on their coffin.
The cross of course has no significance apart from Christ who was once nailed upon it on a Friday outside Jerusalem in 30AD, and who we as Christians believe that after he was taken down and buried in the tomb, was raised from the dead on the Sunday. It is the Resurrection that enables us to rejoice in the cross. Without that, it is a symbol of a tragedy best forgotten.
Even within the resurrection faith however, remembrance of the suffering of Christ is a source of great strength for us who are called in baptism to "fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith". Perhaps this is the deepest mystery of faith that so many people miss completely. In the cross we are reminded that God is not separate from suffering, but that God in Jesus suffered and continues to suffer in our brokenness and in the brokenness of the world.
Michael Mayne, in his wonderful book "Pray, Love, Remember" says that what Christians claim "is that, rather than providing answers, God enters into the questions, and in doing so transforms themů enters into them in terms of one man's birth, life and painful death, where Jesus comes to be the love of God in our midst.
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 'Only a suffering God can help', and in the words of John Austin Baker, 'the crucified Jesus is the only accurate picture of God the world has ever seen.' "
In Christ, symbolised in the crucified one on the cross, human pain does not have to be endured apart from God, as if God is perpetually distant and we are in the midst of a terrible mistake. We may not easily find the answers but Christ is indeed with us in the questions.
Yours in Christ,
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