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The Grim Reaper is a taciturn companion on the path of life, yet a bearer of serious advice.
To the Anglo-Saxons, Good Friday was the Long Friday — just as it were for the Swedes. The author Sven Bælter explained why in Historiska anmärkningar om kyrcko-ceremonierna, published in 1762:
Hos oss kallas Christi lidandes dag Långfredag; emedan den Fredagen varit lång och besvärlig för vår Frälsare, och Gudstiensten, tillika med Fastan, hölts då längre, än på andra dagar.
‘Where we belong, the day on which Christ suffered is called the Long Friday as that Friday was long and troublesome for our Saviour, and the Mass, just as the Lent, lasted longer than on other days.’
In the symbolic play which is the Easter, the Good Friday has the part of the winter which strips nature of all it’s lavish greenery, forces it to bow with its face to the wet dirt, and live like a frozen and numb beggar for months. Just the kind of degradation that Belisarius, the loyal and most able general of the Byzantine emperor Justinianus, had to suffer from his once trusted master.
Justinianus in the middle and Belisarius to his right (probably). Mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.
From a universal point of view, I see the Good Friday as a representation of the yearly, death of Nature. It is the day of all those who need to die to keep the wheels of renewal and resurrection in motion: Jesus, Osiris, Eurydike, Balder … as a matter of fact, we are all a part of this, which is illustrated by this 15th century painting in Härkeberga kyrka, Uppland, by the German painter Albertus Pictor.
This story doesn’t actually has to be about Death and Life. It could as well be about the classic ”from rags to riches” — one of the classic plots of storytelling. Or why not agile development? Choose a random point on the perifery of a wheel; the reason that it moves forward is because the point alternates between crawling in the mud and flying high in the free air. Since Kindergarten we all know that the wheels on the bus go round round round.
As you grow older, you become more and more aware of the universal cyclicity of things–not least in your role as a parent. Recently, I became a great fan of the TV series American Horror story. In one episode the character of Jessica Lange says something like (quoting from memory) ‘When you’re a parent you never lose your beauty, it is only transfered to another person.’ To realise this is like giving Death a Melvin.
While assisting your children in exploring the stuff from which the World is woven, experiencing success and failures and conquer the World it is apparent that the moment Now is a moving point on a static timeline. Everything that has been is present in our lifes; we just have to change our focus and adapt the mindset of the Tralfamdorians, as described by Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Slaughterhouse Five.
And if someone would ask you the question “Is it the hen or is it the egg?” your answer should be “It is the hen and the egg!” Because the egg contains the hen to be and the hen contains the egg to be. The obvious contains the indisputable, and the indisputable contains the obvious. Nature never complains as
‘The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.’
‘All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.’
You see, all the answers we need are all there in the Ecclesiasties, just like The Byrds noted half a decade ago!
So what is Holy Saturday, Black Saturday, Easter Eve or whatever you may call it for? Probably to sit in your home, wait for the resurrection of Nature, Jesus, Osiris, Eurydike, Balder or whoever you are waiting for, think thoughts like the ones above and enjoy your newly cleansed heart: Mache dich, mein Herze, rein.
And finally: if you adapt the Tralfamadorian view you realise that it is futile to sit and wait for your time to come. As a matter of fact, it has been there all the time. Happy Easter to you all!