Mar 25, 2016
Only a few times a century does Good Friday fall on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, and this year will be the last such occurrence in any of our lifetimes. While we aren't likely to hear much of this liturgical coincidence because the Church has moved the feast of the Annunciation to the Monday after Easter, this important day makes manifest the full human life cycle of our God in a matter of a few earthly hour and is an invitation to fully unite ourselves with Christ.
Good Friday marks the day God died. It's a day our Lord left the earth after being tortured, beaten, and hung from a cross until his human lungs collapsed from the weight of his body. It's the day Christ cried out from the cross "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me."
The Annunciation is the moment that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and with His divine touch she conceived the God made flesh in her virginal womb. Nine months to the day from Christ's birth at Christmas, this is the day the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with a heavenly greeting – "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." Where she responded, "May it be done to me according to thy word."
The Catholic Church has a ritual liturgical calendar that is replete with meaningful symbols, and the convergence of Good Friday and the Annunciation is one of the most magnificent of these symbols. It is a profound period of opposites juxtaposed in a way that express the cohesive unity of our faith, bringing our faith full circle in one twenty-four hour period just as the east eventually becomes the west when traveling the globe.
This day reveals the mysterious, yet full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man who took flesh and died a violent death for the sake of his beloved creation. At once, our Lord is a minutes-old zygote while he is also a fully grown man facing his own persecution and death. This is the alpha and the omega, where the beginning meets the end. Christ took flesh at a specific point in time – on the Annunciation – but he has existed since before time began. Scripture tells us that the Word, Christ, was with God the Father, and God was with the Word. God the Father knew his son even before he was conceived in Mary's womb – just like He knows each of us before we were formed in our mother's womb. Likewise, Christ died on a specific day, GoodFriday, but he rose again three days later and lives eternally in heaven.
The unification of Good Friday and the Annunciation also reveals the deep mystery of God's divinity and dying love for his creation. Christ didn't die for the sake of spectacle. He died to give ultimate meaning to our earthly lives and to open up heaven by offering a sacred and eternal resting place for each of us, body and soul. Like Christ, we are born and each of us will die, but we will never end. Our souls, and eventually our bodies, will live eternally in either heaven or hell. The conjoining of the Annunciation and Good Friday is an invitation for us to unite our own struggles and sufferings with Christ on the cross so that we too can eventually celebrate a perpetual resurrection with Him in heaven.
While we will never again experience this calendar coincidence before our death – it won't happen again until 2157 – such rich symbolism is available to us every day in the Mass. Every hour of every day this unity of Christ's birth and death occurs on altars throughout the world in the celebration of the Eucharistic. During the prayers of consecration, the unleavened bread and wine resting up on the altar become the Lord again. Then, during the fraction rite, the priest breaks the host that is our Lord made flesh to symbolize the death of his earthly body. According to Christ's command, and like a seed that falls from a plant, he nourishes us when we consume this eternal and holy food, the Eucharist. When received in a state of grace, partaking in the Eucharist is the greatest deed we can perform on this side of heaven. It is a salvific meal made especially for us by our God himself as an act of eternal love and perpetual invitation for us to be with Him.
As we reflect on Christ's death this Good Friday, think also of his conception and birth, and how through the Eucharist we too can participate in his birth, death and eternal life.