Good Friday here, Good Friday there . . . Good Friday vs. Viernes Santo . . . Good Friday Everywhere

A brief meditation: The image above is from Seville, Spain. Cuba used to have processions like this one. I’m old enough to remember the throngs in the streets, the floats with life-size images of Christ’s passion.

Good Friday in Cuba B.C. (Before Castro) was the most religiously intense day of the year. All stores were closed. Television programming was focused on Christ’s passion. As a child, all of those programs scared me half to death.

At my house, no laughing was allowed on Good Friday, no joking, no playing, no fun of any kind. No music. It was the most somber of days. One could not even use any sharp instrument — anything that could have injured Christ — no knives, no scissors, no saws. If one did dare to do so one risked injuring oneself.

At 3 p.m. exactly, the hour of Christ’s death on the cross, my father would corral the whole family into one room lit only by candles, where we would all pray before a large crucifix. That prayer session seemed to last for hours, but it was probably no more than a half hour.

Afterwards, my brother and I were supposed to be as glum and sad as we had been before 3 pm. My father had a way of adding extra drama to the day by saying things such as: “You know, every Good Friday at 3 pm, everywhere in the world, the sun is obscured by clouds.” I believed him, because, lo and behold, it did seem to happen exactly that way in Havana every Good Friday.

Then came the so-called Revolution. No more religion in the streets! Stores might be empty, but they’ll stay open. Television programming will focus on the Revolution in myriad ways, but not on Christ.

Then I came to the U.S., just two weeks before Good Friday, 1962. My first American Good Friday was totally different. My brother and I were driven by a Catholic neighbor to St. Brendan’s Church in Westchester, which was then at the outer edge of Miami.

We were driven by a neighbor because Tony and I had just been taken in by two American Jewish families. No Christ images in my house. No religious images at all. But my foster parents, Louis and Norma Chait forced me to go to St. Brendan’s every Sunday and gave me a dollar to put in the collection plate. God bless them.

St. Brendan’s had hardly any religious imagery. The guy who drove us there was playing music on his car radio. And it was “Good Friday”, not “Sacred Friday” or “Holy Friday.” It was GOOD. Dear God in Heaven, are Americans insane? How could anyone call this day “Good”? It was supposed to be about suffering, pain, one’s sinfulness, the horror of the cross.

Welcome to Miami. Welcome to American Catholicism. So, so different. It took me three years to adapt to American Good Friday. I had to admit I liked it better. It’s Good because of the gift of salvation. All the horror of it has a good ending, and the goodness of it transcends the horror. Christ died for all our sins, all of them, including the ones we haven’t committed yet. Redemption. Salvation. Obtained through one sacrificial act that God took upon himself.

What a mystery. What a wonderful mystery. Such a Good mystery. So infinitely incomprehensible, so infinitely Good. Followed by Easter, and the promise of resurrection.

Hey, it’s almost 3 pm. Gotta go. The greatest of all hours in human history is approaching again, as it does every year, and I need to do what my father taught me to do. Be still at 3. Maybe the sun will be blotted out here in Connecticut, though it is blazing right now. Not a cloud in the sky. Will they show up?

No, the clouds don’t need to show up, especially clouds shaped like the island of Cuba, which I see quite often. No.

And there is nothing frightful about this day, though I always try to keep all sharp objects at a safe distance. Hey, it’s now closer to 3 pm. Time to rejoice in redemption. Time to pray for the redemption of the whole world, and especially of Cuba. Sad, tragic Cuba, where Good Friday processions have been banned this year.

Redemption. What a beautiful word. As beautiful as a Cuba-shaped cloud laughing at the moon on a late afternoon in Connecticut.

Cuba cloud and moon over Guilford, Connecticut 5 March 2023

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