The Good, the Bad, and the Godly

by Rebecca Lynne Fullan

Good Friday seems to be about stripping things bare—the altar and the church are bare. Isn’t it something to see the priests flat out on the ground, the quiet sounds of their shoes dying away in the absence of a song? Yet Good Friday is a masked creature, despite. Good Friday comes in masks, and unmasks us.

Good Friday seems misnamed, and that itself begins the parade of masks. What is good in standing toe to toe (or lips to feet, as the case may be) with suffering and death? What is good about torture and pain? Is not suggesting there is something good an invitation to glorify pain—to inflict it, to accept it—as good in itself? A dangerous mask. I have always despised with strong fire the desire to wallow in pain, for any reason. This sort of hate can only be borne by that which tempts, and tempts hard.

Perhaps the good is for you and me—atonement good—good for us, bad for Him. Is this the love we are to have for God? Yes, do die for me, please, I promise to feel bad about it, but how lovely you are with bruises, and how hungry I am for blood and skin. Is that good? It’s a hard and shining mask that comes without a safeword, this one, and if it reveals you as it reveals me, come up close. Look at what you are feeling when you tenderly count His falls.

Underneath, of course, is the pain itself. Pain holds what attraction it does because it is singular and inevitable. When it comes upon your body you are crystallized, focused, reduced. And what remains is a grasping at the non-hurt, a push through the pain to the time when the pain will end, or at last merely existing within it, in the remade boundaries of pain-enclosed perception. In pain I am isolated even from myself, for I can look back and say, oh yes, it was very painful, I was doubled over, I remember, but the memory is a wondering, peering thing—the sensory experience of pain can never exactly be re-entered. What a thing to look on.

The truth is, we spend a lot of time avoiding the eyes of pain, not to mention death. Standing on the train platform, watching the lights of the train sweep toward me, I am seized more often than is reasonable by the fear that one of my fellow passengers will take the notion to push me in front of those inexorable lights. This is absurd, but such games protect me, much of the time, from the paralyzing anxiety of really understanding that yes, I, too, at any time, could die, and all of us, at some time, will. And some of us will die when we don’t want to, when we are not at peace or ready, and some of us do die, every day, for stupid, insane reasons like not being born in a place where we are valued, where, on the contrary, somehow, our deaths are something to be shrugged off and lived with. And all of us live in that world, and all of us eat bread someone else might have lived by. And some of us just die, not for any reason, not because anyone did anything wrong, just… because. Is this a mask?

Good Friday bizarrely, roughly, tenderly, with a sexy smile and a skeletal hand, peels back these layers one by one, holds up the mirror to my wild, scarred, and wincing honest face, and insists on being good.


Jesus Christ.

I love you. I love the madness of you—have I said? I cannot believe that you invite me to look at these things, these things about myself, these things about the world. I cannot believe there is a day set aside for death, on which I must pull up a chair for death and suffering and share my meals with them.

And yet I think I need it. I need these masks to be removed. The strangest, ugliest things haunt me, and there is something as hopeful as a deep breath of air in the absolutely insane practice of holding up this ugliness—literally lifting it high—and saying, HERE IS THE HOLY MYSTERY! Here is the mystery of God. In the death, in the pain, under the masks… not denying them or hiding from them, but in them… the possibility of Something Else Altogether is opened.

It’s total craziness. But I think only a God who could meet me here, in this crazy terrifying sadistic ridiculous hall of mirrors of a passion, is a God I can slowly, without taking my eyes from the horror and beauty of the world, open my hands to, and begin to trust.

Rebecca Lynne Peter Fullan wishes you a Good Friday. She likes you without your masks, and she likes you with them too. She also wants to give you this:


One Response

  1. Thank you for this prayerful reflection on which I can meditate. I loved the facebookpassion, too.

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