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The Road Goes On

Thursday, March 24, 2005 at 11:52 PM

Faith is on the way: Good Friday

I've already posted excerpts from this interview with Romanian playwright Andras Visky.

Here is some really inspirational and thought-provoking reading for Holy Week and Good Friday.
[T]here is a short – very short! – period in history where I like to stop, to linger. This is Good Friday. Only at this point can the work of art and the interpretation of the scripture come into existence, come alive, in order to force the hand of God – there is no other possibility – to contact God, the personally existent, and to entrust the work of resurrection to Him.

The New Pantagruel:
How do you mean, to force the hand of God?

Because, look at the disciples on Good Friday. The Messiah is gone. And they don’t know what to do, they hide. Because Friday afternoon, the afternoon of the crucifixion, all of our thoughts are about death and we forget every promise about the resurrection. It is unbelievable.

The New Pantagruel:
That we forget the promises about the resurrection or that the resurrection happened?

That we forget the promises. It is unbelievable but this is our life, to forget all the promises. Those three chapters from John where He talks about His departure and return – how can they forget this? They forget because the death is so obvious, so real, so natural, so present, that you can feel it. It seems that we, today, don’t feel the death. And the question is, if we don’t feel the death, do we feel the resurrection?

It seems to me that we, the church today, have forgotten those three days in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We never speak about those three days because the Gospels are mainly silent about them. As if to cut out from the history of the cosmos those three days. And it seems that we today have forgotten them totally. But from my perspective, a good and accurate representation of the already-not-yet could be that period. To touch with one hand, if you want, Good Friday and to touch with the other hand, Easter Sunday.

The New Pantagruel:
To touch with faith or belief, or with what?

To touch with our hand (laughs), because these other words are too nice. Faith is a good word but we have to add something to it. In this period, in these hours after the crucifixion and before the resurrection, there is no faith. There is a coming faith. Faith is on the way. But it’s not there yet. There’s a secret in this disciples story. Why, for example, do they stay together? It is not a logical thing to do, to remain together when you are being persecuted. I remember during the time of persecution in Romania, the worst situation always was to be found together. Because this was seen as a conspiracy by the authorities.

I just want to underline something. It seems that we, the church, know very well the end of the story and this is very suspicious to me. To know very well the end of the story is to forget the beginning of the story. To focus so much on the end of the story, is to consider myself as a natural partner in, or character of, the end of the story. But according to our doctrines, this is known only by God.
. . . .

You know, we are so superior. We see someone living in a sort of fear, or angst, and tell them it’s because of sin, because of their sin. Which is not sure – maybe it’s because of my sin. We don’t share our fears with the world. We share only our triumphs. And for me, this is suspicious. I don’t see in our church life that there are so many reasons to not go out and represent in the life of the world this journey in the wilderness. We are living in a desert and the church is a representation of the journey, of the exile, of in-between-ness. It’s a representation of going out and maybe that’s why the church in this age or in the age of classical modernity had or has big problems with art in general. Because the work of art represents this in-between-ness always. Always.

Okay, I want to go back to Good Friday.

And this is what we always have to come back to. You know, we are living in the period between Good Friday and the day of resurrection. I’ve come to the conclusion that the theatre, the work of art in the largest sense of the word, knows something about Good Friday which we have forgotten. Samuel Beckett, who was perhaps the only Christian writer of the second half of the last century, speaks very much about this place. He reformulated Christian eschatology, our hopeless hope of waiting, and he did this with unbelievable sharpness and objectivity.

I had a commission from a State Theatre in Hungary a few years ago to write a play about Easter. And this idea came to me to write a play about the disciples in this period between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. [Disciples.] The Messiah has gone, they don’t know where, and they are very scared and confused and they are waiting for something or someone. They have some memories of things Jesus said and did, but these memories seem meaningless now. They have to re-begin.

The New Pantagruel:
Re-begin their faith life – or what?

Their life, their whole life. You know, they had suffered some things when they were with Jesus, when He was still with them, and He had taken care of them but this is all in the past. They have to convince God to enter into this present moment with them. So they try to piece together what happened, to try to understand how they got to this place. And they stage a series of little plays inside the main play as they try to reconstruct their life with Jesus. Was He real or not? Was He who they thought He was or not? Did any of the things they remembered actually happen? And retelling their stories to one another, they realize, “This was very real. This actually happened with me. I can’t deny this. But He is dead. We saw Him die. What to do now?”

Good Friday is the place where we should return, again and again, so as to depend only on God, letting all knowledge and all stories go. This is the place and the state that invites God to act, to intervene in our lives. Good Friday is the best time for this meeting in history which shows God as an acting, active God.

The New Pantagruel:
I can see why Good Friday can be a “good” place to be, but why should we purposely go back there?

You know, Jesus is resurrected, yes, but Jesus is also still on the cross. And if I want to be with Him, I have to go where He is. To arrive at a Good Friday is a gift from God, an invitation from God to re-begin my life with Him. It’s a big gift from God if I realize that I have to re-begin my life. God is so rich that He doesn’t permit us to use blessings from the past. He wants to share with us blessings from the present. His presence is out of time, which means it is a continuous presence. He overcomes time in this way. And even those experiences of past blessing are nothing when you are in a new trouble. It doesn’t help. You have to tell God, these past experiences are not tools in my hand. My hands are empty again and again and again. Why doesn’t God speak to us through the Bible? Because we know everything and our hands are not empty. We cannot listen to His voice because between Him and me there is a Bible passage. My hands have to be empty. To say to God at the beginning of the day, I will open the Bible and I want to be taught by You, not by my knowledge about the Bible.
Reading these thoughts on the importance of returning to Good Friday reminds me of the phrase from the Catholic prayer of Marian devotion, Salve Regina ("Hail Queen"): "To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears."

I hadn't heard this until I worked with a Catholic seminarian while doing hospital chaplaincy. The phrase "vale of tears" has always grabbed me: what would it be like to be formed by praying something like this over the years?

Anonymous Steve B. said...

Andy, This is rich, provocative, and meaningful. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.  


Anonymous Ailisha said...

Anyone who is interested in these ideas from Andras Visky might also be interested to know that Calvin College is presnting his play, "Disciples," as part of their winter season and as part of their yearly symposium on worship. Check out http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/ctc/current.htm
and look under the heading "Winter Play" for details. He will be in Grand Rapids for at least some of the performances.  


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