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good friday

Good Friday is very special. It is not only a “good” day, it is perhaps the best of all days, at least when taken in conjunction with Easter Sunday. It is, after all, the day on which we are redeemed from sin and become inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. Days don’t get any better than that! And yet I am tempted to claim, indeed I’m tempted to exclaim, that this particular Good Friday is extra special, that it has something about it that most other Good Fridays don’t have. In making such a claim, I expect to raise the eyebrows and perhaps even the ire of those who understand the supreme significance of this holiest of days. How can one Good Friday be better than any other? How can anyone claim that this year will be a Very Good Friday, whereas last year was only a Fairly Good Friday? Heaven forbid that anyone should say such a thing!

I am, of course, not saying such a thing.

Heaven forbid!

And yet….

And yet I am still saying that this particular Good Friday is indeed extra special!

Perhaps I should explain.

feast of annunciationWhat makes this Good Friday extra special is that it falls on March 25. Those who know the Christian calendar will recognize the significance of this date. It is the Feast of the Annunciation, the date on which the Archangel Gabriel declared unto Mary that she would conceive of the Holy Ghost. It is the date on which Mary does conceive of the Holy Ghost. The date on which God becomes Man. The date on which the Word becomes Flesh. As a date, it is far more important than the Feast that happens nine months later, on December 25, because life begins at conception, not at birth.

So am I claiming that this particular Good Friday is extra special because it coincides with the Annunciation, conjoining the Incarnation with the Crucifixion, the feast with the fast, the Life with the Death? Up to a point, perhaps, but this is not the principal reason for the extra-special status of this particular Good Friday.

I make the claim primarily not because March 25 is the date of the Annunciation but because it is the historical date of the Crucifixion. This is often forgotten because we celebrate Good Friday as a movable feast. It is commemorated on a different date each year. We forget that the Crucifixion happened on one particular day, on one particular date, in history. That day, that date, was March 25.

At this point, the skeptic is raising his eyebrows and his ire for the second time. “How do you know the date of the Crucifixion?” he seems to say. “Were you there?”

Well, as a matter of fact I was. It was I and my sins that put the hatred into the hand that hammered the nails into Our Lord’s flesh. The Word was made flesh, and I butchered it.

But this is not the reason that I know that Our Lord was crucified on March 25. I know it because the tradition of the Church teaches it.

No doubt, the skeptic is now raising his ireful eyebrows for a third time. “How authoritative is the tradition of the Church in such matters? Was the Church there? Was the Church standing at the foot of the Cross?” Well, actually She was. She was present when Christ told His Mother to behold St. John as her son, and when He told St. John to behold the Virgin as his mother.

The skeptic is unimpressed by such theological niceties. He cuts to the chase: “How does the Church know the exact date on which the Crucifixion happened? Aren’t such details lost in the mists of time? Why trust ‘tradition’ in these matters?”

good fridayMy reply is simple enough. I am a miserable sinner and yet, in spite of this, I remember the date on which my father died, and the date on which my mother died. Do we really suppose that the Blessed Virgin would ever forget the date on which she saw her own son nailed to a tree, watching Him die in agony? Do we really suppose that St. John would forget the date on which he saw his lord and master die? Or that Mary Magdalene would forget the date that she saw her lord die? They were all there. They saw it. The date would have been branded on their memory for the rest of their lives. And what of the ten miserable disciples who ran away? Would they be likely to forget the date of their day of shame?

It is clear, therefore, that the date of the Lord’s Crucifixion would have been well-known to the early Church and that this is the very source of the tradition that I have no trouble accepting as true. And this is the reason for my claim that this particular Good Friday is extra special. It’s not often that we commemorate the fast-day of Our Lord’s Death on the actual anniversary of the date on which it happened in history. And the fact that it also happens to be the feast of the Annunciation makes it even better!

May the joy of the Incarnation, the sorrow of the Crucifixion and the glory of the Resurrection be with all imaginative conservatives during these Holy Days.

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7 replies to this post
  1. Not convinced – not by the claim about the 25th March being the date, but the hopeless failure to think about what dates were about in those days. Specifically: the church chose to celebrate the Passion on the basis of the Hebrew Calendar, with parts of the church persisting in basing it on the Jewish calculation until Nicaea. This surely reflects the fact that for the early church Hebrew calendar was as valid a calendar as that of Rome, which we have now inherited. So for the early church every year the passion was celebrated on the ‘right’ date; 14th Nissan.

  2. I love the article, but I’m having trouble reconciling the date of the crucifixion with the facts in this article by Jimmy Aiken, which shows the date to actually be April 3rd, 33 AD. However, I find it even more significant that this date (April 3rd) happens to be Divine Mercy Sunday when Good Friday falls on March 25th. Very cool!

  3. Jewish tradition gave the date of March 25 to Abraham’s sacrifice. This day was also considered as the day of creation, the day when God’s Word decreed: “Let there be light.” It was also considered, very early on, as the day of Christ’s death and eventually as the day of his conception. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (The Spirit of the Liturgy)

  4. Thank you for this wonderful post. Fr. Mark Kirby wrote two beautiful posts on Vultus Christi related to March 25th that one would do well to read. The first is about the Sacra Spina and the 2nd is entitled “Ave — Consummatum Est.”

  5. I’m surprised Mr. Pearce did not mention this: March 25 was held to be the start of the New Year for many centuries–in Britain (and her North American colonies) until the 1750s. At that time, Britain followed the rest of Europe and finally adopted the Gregorian calendar, including the convention of January 1 as New Years’ Day.

    J.R.R. Tolkien, whose work is frequently expounded on this site, alluded to the old way of marking the new year in The Lord of The Rings. The fulfillment of the quest initiated in the Fellowship of the Ring takes place on March 25 in the Shire Reckoning, and marks the start of the Fourth Age in Middle Earth.

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