Good Friday is a – or “the” – day when Jesus is being glorified. The Scriptures attest to this. At the Last Supper: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son…” (Jn 17:1ff). At the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor: “[Moses and Elijah were] speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem… [The three disciples] saw his glory” (Lk 9:31–32). Glory, transfiguration of this mortal flesh, light: these themes are related to Jesus “departure”, which is to say the Cross.
In this vein, I have never understood those who want to make Good Friday primarily penitential – as if I somehow had the force to resist looking on the glorious one and to look primarily on my own sins. Some may have such force. I do not. The draw is too strong; I cannot resist it and look mostly on the tortured body and the sins that weighed it down. No, the draw is strong, and it is towards the fact that Jesus is being glorified.
In an article on Marcel Văn CSsR, Bruno-Marie Simon OP remarks,
On the Cross, suffering becomes, in the hands of the Father, glorious. It is this glory that the Good Thief and the Centurion were able to see, having not witnessed the previous works of Christ and which let them recognize in such a face “without beauty nor anything striking” the eternal Face of the Son of God. The fascination of the saints for the Cross can only be explained by this presence of divine joy in the suffering of the Crucified.
The fascination of the saints for the Cross is that, in it they find:
- the transfiguration of this mortal flesh by immortality;
- a – “the” – great act of changing sadness into joy.
Are we surprised? No, we shouldn’t be. The saints were not so psychologically imbalanced as to like the Cross in itself, to like to think on the consequences of their sins separated from Christ’s divinity. They were not obsessed with sacrifice in itself – though, to be sure, when Jesus asked for it, they said yes. They were simply in love with the Crucified one, who changes sadness into joy, not by abolishing sadness and suffering, but by glorifying it with the inflow of his divinity, the Face of the Son of God manifest in this present world.
That’s Good Friday, into which we are assimilated by our joys, our sufferings changed into joy, and participation in the Eucharist.