Now the great question that stands before us on Good Friday is: are we going to empty ourselves in answer to his emptiness? Because if we are, the moment we empty ourselves, at that moment we shall know the joy of Christ!
Notwithstanding his pain, notwithstanding all the things that happen today and tomorrow - the pain, the cross, the tomb - if I empty myself because I am in love with God, the God who emptied himself for me - when I say, “Yes, here I am Lord! Take out of me anything that is displeasing to you. Empty me... (the Greek word is ‘kenosis’) Let me enter into this kenosis that you have entered into for love of me”--the moment I have accepted to be emptied, that very moment I shall know joy.
This is why in the Eastern Church it says that Good Friday is full of flowers, is full of joy. It is like a person stepping out on a sunny day, like our days here, still with snow on the ground - and suddenly, through a quiet breeze through which God usually speaks, I feel spring! So standing under the cross, tears falling down my cheeks, pain racking me - shall we say ‘in union with his’ I feel arising from my heart a joy.
Out of the depths of my heart arises the sound, the smell, the joy of spring! Resurrection!
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Spiritual Reading, Good Friday, 1974
Reflection – I am continuing to blog this excellent Good Friday meditation from Catherine. The intersection of pain and joy, the strange union of the two, is among the greatest ‘buried treasures’ the human race doesn’t know too much about, honestly.
In fact, reading Catherine on this subject is, for many, the strange experience of reading someone who is using a series of ordinary English words, not one of them hard to understand in themselves, yet put together in what is essentially a nonsensical fashion. ‘Joy’, as we normally understand it, arises when everything is just the way we want it, when we get our desires met, when we have our way with things. ‘Pain’ is the antithesis of all these things. How can joy arise from pain, and how can pain and joy be one?
Love is the answer to this question, as it is one way or another to most human questions. It’s actually all quite logical. Joy is, indeed, that which we experience when we receive what we want. Joy is ‘resting in the good’, according to the old scholastic definition, the bliss of obtaining the object of our desires.
If we love God, our desire is to be one with Him. We becoming one with Him by living His life, by sharing in His love. We become one with God by being crucified with Christ, by our self-will and selfishness being nailed to the Cross and our love being poured out for neighbor as his was poured out for all humanity. This, of course, hurts.
So if we love God, joy and pain are one reality, the Cross and the Resurrection merge into a single movement of love, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are, in a sense, one single day, one single revelation of love—on the one part showing forth the cost, the strain, the anguish of it, on the other the radiant beauty and victory.
Without love, everything I have written in the above two paragraphs is sheer unadulterated nonsense. With love, everything I have written here is pellucidly clear. I think a parent will understand this dynamic easily—if one’s child is really suffering, you will be happy to cut off your left arm to alleviate that pain. At any rate, it is quite true, and reveals to us so much of the secret of life and love, happiness and the deep truths of our humanity.
It is not suffering that saddens us ultimately, but selfishness. It is not pleasure that gladdens us, but love. The whole orientation of our being, the whole spectrum along which joy/sorrow, happiness/misery runs is very different from what it seems at first. It is indeed a question of getting what we want, of being fulfilled in our desires, but it is even more so, much more so, a matter of wanting the right thing, wanting that which actually is commensurate with the fullness of our human dignity, our greatness, our divine capacity.
We are made to be sharers of the divine nature, made to be lovers with the scope and extent of Love Himself, cosmic and total. The expansion of our being to our divine destiny hurts us, because we have clung to all sorts of things that limit us to lesser goods, but as we tear free from those bindings, Lazarus-like, we are pulled even in the pain and distress of it into a new freedom, a new horizon of love, a new expansion into a way of life and love that is wholly one with Christ, wholly joyful and radiant with the light of the endless Easter day.