Lead me to the Cross
by Bethany Kaldas
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’
When we think of Good Friday, we do not tend to think of it as…well, good. The closest we come is in acknowledging the fact that it is because of the Crucifixion that we have been saved from sin. But even so we do it in a sombre, regretful tone, the same way we talk about the deaths of soldiers on a battlefield. We shed tears for a horrific and tragic event that happened to Somebody else, a long time ago, very far away.
But Good Friday is about as far from the commemoration of a terrible misfortune as you can get. It is not a commemoration at all. Good Friday is the resolution of the greatest love story in all Creation. And it did not merely happen. It is happening to us.
It is a story that begins with the fitting words, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’ (Genesis 1:1). The world is created—marvels upon marvels that had yet to be seen in the universe! Substance where there was once nothing! Light in a cosmos which had been blind! Water to a land that had never tasted a drop! Living creatures of boundless forms inhabiting a once lifeless world! Each day something more and more wonderful!
…And yet it was incomplete.
Then came the sixth day of Creation, and something… Different happens.
‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”’
We know this story well. This is the creation of the first humans. But this is not just some distant tale about Adam and Eve. This is the beginning of us.
As Fr John Behr puts it, this is the announcement of God’s own project—humanity—a project that, unlike His other countless wonders, ‘is not completed by His word alone’ (Becoming Human, p. 35). God has said that humanity is to be in His ‘image and likeness’ (Genesis 1:26), and yet the creature that is formed of the dust falls away. Broken and confused, mankind comes to barely resemble the Being it was made after. Of all of Creation, humanity is the only work which is begun but not yet finished.
Fr John goes on to claim that through all of history, from the sixth day of Creation, not one human being has been seen on Earth. Until Good Friday. Until the Creator Himself came down to His Creation, and hanging on the Cross, on the verge of death, declared with utter finality:
‘It is finished.’
And finally, the sixth day of Creation comes to its end.
Good Friday is the day we are completed. It is the day we become the glorious Bride of Christ. It is the day we become the Church—we finally fulfil that image and likeness we were made for. This when we become the True Eve, who is to the True Adam, ‘of His flesh and of His bones’ (Ephesians 5:30). With the sacrificial death of the first True Human in all the universe, Christ Himself, human kind is finally born and finally united with Her Creator.
‘Thus the day of Jesus’ crucifixion is His wedding day, when He, the new Adam, is ‘joined to His wife’, the Church, in an everlasting marriage covenant.’
Brant Pitre, Jesus the Bridegroom
But it is not enough to know this happened—we must see that it is happening.
In his book, Jesus the Bridegroom, Brant Pitre describes Christ’s sacrifice in this way:
‘Jesus is united with His bride through the sacrifice of His own flesh and blood, poured out literally on Calvary and then miraculously in the sacraments of the Church.’
Whenever we partake of the Eucharist, we are participating in the very same sacrifice that was given on that Cross, the Cross we too often feel is only a distant historical event to be commemorated in ritual.
But it is even more than that. Through this sacrifice, the sacrifice that birthed humanity and wed us to our Maker, we see a reality that the saints before us realised centuries ago. An uncomfortable reality, perhaps, captured so perfectly in Romans 6:8: ‘Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.’ It is the reality that we can only live if we first die.
We see this reality portrayed most potently in examples such as Saint Ignatius of Antioch. In his letters, he begged his friends not to do anything that might prevent his martyrdom. He pleads to them with all sincerity, ‘Do not hinder me from living.’ He realised that one cannot really have a life by trying to preserve it for oneself—true life comes through unity with Christ, and that through death with Christ.
Martyrdom seems like a radical idea to the modern, western mind—and by no means am I suggesting that we cannot be real, living Christians unless we hop on a plane and find someone who will kill us for our beliefs. We need not travel so far for martyrdom. For true martyrdom is not mere physical death, but the sacrifice of one’s whole self for the sake of Christ.
‘Until you have given up yourself to Him you will not have a real self.’
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
And it is in this that we find the goodness of Good Friday.
God’s greatest work—the human race, the Church, His Bride—was completed and wed to Him through the voluntary sacrifice of His whole self. In precisely the same way, we can only be wholly ourselves—that most glorious creature, that image and likeness of God—if we give our whole selves away for His sake.
Good Friday is not a commemoration of a tragic event. Good Friday is when we find life in the giving up of life, when we die with Him in order to live with Him.
‘Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.’