The Bottom Line

The Christian church is deeply divided into communities that rehearse different histories and embody divergent aesthetic preferences. Any lasting cease-fire in these worship wars is not likely to emerge from a resolution of the so-called culture wars which feed them, or from large-scale conversions of taste, or from carefully buttressed historical arguments about ancient liturgical precedents. Finally, such a cease-fire can only issue from the depth and mystery of the gospel which Christians proclaim. Christian worship is strongest when it is integrally and self-consciously related to the person and work of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. The study of Christian worship is most helpful to Christian communities when it demonstrates how this has happened in the past and how it might happen in the future in more profound ways.

—John D. Witvliet, “The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship: Perennial Themes in Recent Theological Literature,” 18

Come, Holy Spirit

If we ask the New Testament authors, “What is the nature of the Spirit’s work?” we receive a plethora of information. It is the Holy Spirit, for example, who is the One who makes God’s love real for us—”God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). In a sense, it is He who stands at the threshold of the Christian life, for only He can enable us to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord—”no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Then, it is the Spirit who gives us the boldness to come into the presence of the awesome and almighty Maker of heaven and earth and call Him “Dear Father”—”God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). It is the Spirit who enables believers, from various racial, social and religious backgrounds, to find true unity in Christ and together worship God (Eph. 2:18). In fact, without the Spirit, worship and the glorification of Jesus Christ cannot take place (Phil. 3:3). And it is the Spirit who is the true Guarantor of orthodoxy (2 Tim. 1:14).

An excellent summary statement of the range of the Spirit’s work is Galatians 5:25, which speaks so plainly about the Spirit as the Source from which we are to live our lives: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” The Spirit thus undergirds and empowers the entirety of our lives as Christians. To paraphrase John 15:5: apart from the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing of any true eternal value.

—Michael A. G. Haykin, The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction To Biblical Spirituality, xix-xx

Holy Saturday

Today a grave holds him
who holds creation in the palm of his hand.
A stone covers him
who covers with glory the heavens.
Life is asleep and hell trembles,
and Adam is freed from his chains.
Glory to your saving work,
by which you have done all things!
You have given us eternal rest,
Your holy resurrection from the dead.

—Orthodox Church, The Matins of Holy Saturday

Why do we call this Friday “Good”?

Although Catholics and Protestants in the past have followed somewhat different forms, in both camps the observances have been such as to cause people to ask, “Then why do we call this Friday ‘good’?” Emphasis has been on the seemingly senseless suffering of Jesus rather than on the purposeful humiliation of God through which redemption comes. In other words, we have failed once again to read the sacred story backward. Friday has been observed as if Sunday had never come.

Good Friday can and should proclaim divine purpose as paramount. Indeed, the term “Good Friday” may be a corruption of the English phrase “God’s Friday.”

This day is good precisely because God was in control at Calvary. The crucifixion of Jesus was not some bad deal that God had to try to make the best of; it was a working out of divine intention with a view to the salvation of an otherwise doomed creation.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 96