Good Friday — growing up Catholic, this was considered one of the most sacred of days. This was the day that honored the passion of Christ, and the last day of his life in the flesh on earth. From noon to 3:00, many held a silent remembrance of his time on the cross. It always seemed a very solemn, holy day.
I left the faith at age 16 and never went back, save for the time when I tried acting like I was returning to the faith in a pathetic attempt to curry favor with the Catholic chaplain on Treasure Island Naval Base in the San Francisco bay. Fortunately, the good chaplain saw right through my charade and told me to knock it off and get real. He and the other two, Protestant chaplains, liked me, and took me under their wing, my protectors those last couple of months of my naval career.
After that, Good Friday never meant a whole lot to me, other than a good day to break out the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, and dig that great music for a day, as I really liked how they interpreted the story of Judas and Jesus and Mary Magdeline. They made them seem a lot more real, and more human, with all the human frailties and shortcomings. Judas was really the star of that version, the tragic, misunderstood hero who just happened to show up at the wrong time, and made a couple of bad calls that really messed his world up. I could really relate to poor, old Judas, in that version.
But, for the past 21 years, Good Friday has taken on a much different meaning for me, every bit of, if not more, sacred than it was as a kid growing up in the Catholic faith. For it was on Good Friday in 1996, which happened to fall exactly a month after Dad had passed over, and also happened to be a Full Moon, the Pink Fool Moon, that we spent the evening, into the night, in a sweat lodge, somewhere deep in the woods of south Jersey.
It was a night like none other, before or since. All of the forces of the universe converged on that evening to find us all, all twelve of us, in that large tent, pitch black inside, a stone pit in the center with stones radiating intense heat, having been heated up in the fire pit outside the tent, where the fire keeper faithfully kept the fire going for hours, periodically delivering fresh, hot stones into the middle of our circle, silently serving us as we all sweated and became a single entity with twelve spirits, and God knows how many other spirits joined us as we performed that sacred ritual for what must have lasted five hours, but could have been an eternity. In a way it was, as that evening still burns so brightly in my heart and my soul so many years later.
All had known my father, most members of the same congregation that he and I had been a part of, and all felt close to him that night. It hadn’t been planned for that purpose, but his presence was among us so strongly, it was as if he was right there with us, throughout the sacred ritual.
I was given something that night that I have carried with me, to this day. I don’t know how to describe what that was/is, other than to say, it was sacred and holy, and opened me back up to a grace I had not known since I was young.
It was a special night. Good Friday will never be the same. I consider myself most blessed to have had that experience. I’ll never forget it.