A Meditation For Holy Friday

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”


sometime Pastor of St. George’s Church, Altoona, Pa.

WHAT OUR BLESSED LORD did for us during His Holy Week and particularly on Holy Friday is almost beyond comprehension.

It is good for us to approach the foot of the cross, for it is there we learn what the love of God means, what man is really intended to be, and what God’s answer to the world’s problems and the problems of every individual’s life is. There is something pathetically human in His words of longing: “What? Could ye not watch one hour with me?”

There is something sweetly human in His words of appreciation of the loyalty and love to the faithful. “Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptation.”

The greatest danger on this day is that we shall so occupy our minds with the sufferings and death of Our Saviour that we shall miss altogether the meaning of His last words to us and the meaning behind His suffering and death.

Let us try to recapture some of the restraint and dignity which possessed the writers of the Gospels as they record for us the last hours of His earthly life: to see if we can rise above the emotional elements that surround the story of the cross and capture, instead, some of the compelling and impressive teachings of the Seven Words.

The good news of the cross is not merely about Jesus: it is also about God, the Father. All that happened on the cross permits us not only to look upon Jesus as the Saviour of mankind, but shows us in terms of love just how much God loved the world. Jesus opened the way for men to know God when He showed them a love that was glad to suffer of its own. During the three hours we must let Him speak to us through His passion and the words He spoke on that first Holy Friday: “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do.”

The tragedy of the crucifixion begins with a prayer of forgiveness. Christianity has only one legitimate weapon, though it may use many. It can conquer the world only by loving and forgiving. On Calvary, the whole heart of God is seen and through it all God went on loving mankind. With a crown of thorns on His head, nails tearing his flesh, and a crowd of sightseers making sport below, with the kiss of Judas still smarting, He spoke those words of forgiveness.

No greater demonstration of forgiveness has ever been given than that was given by the One who for long hours suffered the agony of the Cross, and was repeating these words even while they stripped Him of His garments. He was offering up this prayer when they were driving the iron spikes into His hands and feet. He was asking forgiveness for them while they jeered Him. Through it all He kept saying: “Father, forgive them.”

It is hard to see how the clouds of war can even be dispelled until humanity stands in reverence beneath the Cross and hears the cry “Father, forgive.” We shall go on stumbling along from one catastrophe to another until Christ’s way of loving men into penitence is tried. From the Cross He reminds us of what He said to His disciples: “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you. and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you that ye may be the children of God.”

Nowhere has the superiority of love been so clearly demonstrated. At no time in human history has the line between hate and love been so clearly drawn.






THIS POWERFUL PASCHAL greeting contains the entire essence, depth and meaning of our Christian faith. “Christ is risen, and our sins are forgiven! Christ is risen, and death is destroyed! Christ is risen, and life is transfigured!” We exult and rejoice in these great truths, but do they make a difference in our lives? Is there a way to live personally as families, and as a parish in the light of Christ’s Holy Resurrection?

The Orthodox Church answers these questions with a thunderous and resounding “YES”! For we believe and cling to the fact that this unheard of victory over death actually changed every thing in the world – it transforms all of creation and makes it new. The early Christians called their faith not a religion, but the Good News, because they knew and believed that this resurrection of Christ was the source of powerful and transfigured lives. Likewise, we who rejoice and celebrate today in this Paschal season experience the reality of the living Christ Who has and is making us to be alive in Him. All the work that we are accomplishing, sharing the faith, celebrating the Mysteries of Salvation, baptizing and chrismating new Orthodox Christians, working together in various projects, sharing life with each other as one family in Christ …….this is the proof of the Resurrection in every healthy and active Orthodox Christian community throughout the world. The living resurrected Christ in our midst continues to transform us as individuals, as families, and as a network of families (our parish community) to become in even greater fullness what we already are — His Body here on earth, the extension of His Incarnation in the flesh.

This is who we are and our lives should reflect our identity. The power and presence of the living Christ should be seen in the way we conduct our personal lives —the way we pray and worship; the way we work and use our time and talents; the way we treat others and relate to them. The risen Christ should also be viewed in our families — the way parents love and care for each other and their children; the way children honor, respect and obey their parents. Finally, the power of the Resurrection should be prevalent in our parish — the way families and individuals believe the best about one another; the way we together trust God for the direction and vision He gives to His Holy Church; the way we truly love one another and see Christ in each other.

The power, the evidence, the proof of the resurrection — it all begins with you and me as we embrace the Risen Christ and allow Him to do His work in our lives. May the joys of this Pascha season radiate through us all as we faithfully live in the glorious splendor of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ. “Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!”

Fr. Don Hock is pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Omaha, Nebraska.