As I write this, my sister-in-law lies very near to death, having just received the last rites of the Catholic Church. Her family has gathered in a vigil at her hospital bed, playing the music of Leonard Cohen to whom she was very devoted.

A stylized version of the Cross with the Eye of Divinity in the center. Sculpture by Ullrrich Javier Garcia Lemus. Taken from his website, used with permission.

Two weeks ago, I went to say Goodbye to my brother in a Veterans’ Hospital near Las Vegas, as he too is in an advanced stage of dying from Alzheimer’s disease. I was pleased that he did recognize me for a short while, and we were able to communicate simply. Two months ago, a housemate of mine died suddenly in the living room.

Death of course is always with us, especially at my age, having spun around the Sun 83 times. It is with us from parents, grandparents, and all who precede us—and in the daily news, such as the six immigrants who died this week while working on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. Young men who were earning money to send back home to Central America.

Norah O’Donnell reports on the catastrophic failure of Baltimore’s Key Bridge, comparing it to a similar accident over Tampa Bay in 1980. Video by CBS Evening News. 

Of course, it is with us when we learn news from Ukraine, Gaza, and Sudan, or anywhere where wars rage. 

So the crucifixion of Jesus at only 30 years old, purposely violent amidst torture—reminds us of the omnipresence of death as a reality. Today’s science tells us that stars, galaxies, and planets also die. Buddhists tells us that all things are impermanent and the crucifixion does the same.

“The Crucifixion of Jesus Cristo,” an unfinished painting by El Salvadoran painter Ullrrich Javier Garcia Lemus. Used with permission.

Many philosophers of old believed the planets were eternal, but science teaches us that they too live, die, and resurrect. Such seems to be a habit or “law” of the universe.

In Christianity, there has often been too much emphasis on the crucifix and the death of Jesus (after all, the cross was not a symbol until the fourth or fifth century—which was the very time Christianity took over the empire). A cross can easily be turned on its side and become weaponized as a sword—which a lot of Christians’ history bears witness to, from Christians having upended other peoples, religions, and cultures around the world.

Jesus was killed by the reigning powers of the Roman empire. Killed as a troublemaker and enemy of the empire, who dared to preach about compassion and the dignity of the poor, with a critical attitude toward the privileged and powerful in religion and society.   

To be continued.

See Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus, Stations of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 123-128.

And Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 157-172.

And Fox, “Creativity and Compassion: From a Fetish with the Cross to an Exploration of the Empty Tomb” in Fox, A Spirituality Named Compasssion, pp. 104-139.

Banner Image: Oil painting depicting the crucifixion of Christ at Calvary (Golgotha) outside the city walls of Jerusalem by Pietro Sassi, circa 1870. Wikimedia Commons. 

Queries for Contemplation

What does the death of Jesus mean to you?

Recommended Reading

Stations of the Cosmic Christ
By Matthew Fox and Bishop Marc Andrus.

This is a book of meditations on the Cosmic Christ, accompanying the images of 16 wonderful clay tablets by Javier Ullrrich Lemus and M.C. Richards. Together, these images and meditations go far beyond the traditional Stations of the Cross to inspire a spirit awakening and understanding of the cosmic Christ Consciousness, Buddha consciousness, and consciousness of the image of God in all beings, so needed in our times.
“A divinely inspired book that must be read by every human being devoted to spiritual and global survival. It is cosmically brilliant.” — Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox lays out a whole new direction for Christianity—a direction that is in fact very ancient and very grounded in Jewish thinking (the fact that Jesus was a Jew is often neglected by Christian theology): the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality, the Vias Positiva, Negativa, Creativa and Transformativa in an extended and deeply developed way.
Original Blessing makes available to the Christian world and to the human community a radical cure for all dark and derogatory views of the natural world wherever these may have originated.” –Thomas Berry, author, The Dream of the Earth; The Great Work; co-author, The Universe Story

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

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7 thoughts on “Good Friday, 2024: A Meditation on Death”

  1. Avatar

    When I was getting ready for bed the following thought occurred to me – “The sooner I go to sleep, the sooner I will wake up to the new day.” Meaning the sooner I put to death an old habit the sooner I will give birth to a new way. Death and resurrection. I am always excited about the new day and the end of the old. I get my coffee pod ready at night with cup ready to pour when I get up. I get up in the very early morning hours of dark, quiet and stillness. There is something inspiring about being awake before the dawn of a new day. Maybe it is consciousness of resurrection in the present ‘dark’ moment. A new breath, a new challenge, a new outlook, a new communion, an increased faith, and hopefully a new and improved ‘state of being’. It is not a goal, rather a new consciousness, a new presence, a new awareness.
    When Jesus says, “Father, forgive them! For they don’t know what they are doing.”, is this not our wake-up call? Who then will ‘follow the Teacher’ and walk, run, understand, more of ‘what we are doing, and need to do, every day’? We decide of course what we will do every day. How we start our day then is very important. Love awaits, truth awaits, trials await, some suffering awaits, joy awaits, inner peace awaits. Are we there for it? Are we receptive to it? Are we aware of our own death and resurrection, and will we willing to wholeheartedly engage in it? Are we ready by the ‘dawn of a new day’ for a ‘new way’? — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Once again, Matthew, you give good food in the morning. Bless you for sharing your unique perspectives with us, that we may add them to our own, often resonating, and always elevating ~ You make a difference in my life and clearly in the lives of many others ~ Viva la Via Christos

  3. Avatar

    The death and resurrection of Jesus symbolize to me the mortality of our humanity, with all its joys and suffering with one another, and our Faith in our Divine Nature/Eternal Souls Always Present to LOVE, comfort, guide, and strengthen Us on Our Eternal Spiritual Journeys in LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS….

  4. Avatar

    My heart goes out to you Mathew, as Lady Death makes her presence and essence known; offering her many blessings through befriending her sacred pathways of death, change, transformation and new life. I’m in the same place.

    Thank you Bill, for your insightful and comforting comment posted today. As well, thank you to the DM team and the recent messages; as well as others whom have posted comments, as they have been helpful to me during this part of my journey of my Mom passing within the next few days.

    The timing of all of this unfolding has definitely drawn me into a different perspective of Easter… more human in some ways, which is difficult to put into words. The stations of the cross, in some mysteriously sacred way; seem to tell a much more personally relatable story then it had in the past.

    The image of the ancient myrrh bearers keeps coming to me, as if these sacred soul spiritual sisters are walking with me on this pathway of befriending Lady Death, and the gifts that she offers… that are deeply rooted in unconditional love, compassion, mercy, healing, forgiveness, surrender, trust and the letting go of many things.

  5. Avatar

    I am 83, all my family has passed. I am grateful for every new day as I continually say goodbye and also say hello. Thank you. All of you for your thoughts and prayers. Blessings. But still I celebrate because I know I am connected. Amen

  6. Avatar

    Matthew, may peace be yours and those with you at this trying time. In your blog back in 2011, you speak of Jesus’ death writing this: “The fact of his being tortured and killed in a most ignominious way by the Roman Empire is a stark reminder that we do not take on the powers of darkness as our prophetic vocations require without paying a price.” For me, this is a major lesson that Jesus’ life and death shows us—not that he came not as a blood sacrifice required by God as many believe—but because that is what happens when we interfere with empire. How feeble is my strength as I recognize daily that I am unwilling to go that far to fight injustice.

    This Holy Week, however, I keep framing Jesus’ death as a sign to us for what most of us must do before we can discover a deeper path of faith—be it Christian, Buddhist, Sufi, or Hopi. Nearly all of us must go through a dark night of the soul to find our faith—however wavering, however full of questions, however lacking in answers—on the other side, without, as you say “paying a price.”

    Thank you also for the moving video of Pope Francis washing the feet of prisoners. I hope you will post that every Good Friday to remind us of how Jesus taught us to follow him.

  7. Avatar

    Death is part of life, but still death of loved ones bring grief. Prayers for comfort and solace to you, Matthew. The death of Jesus is what all of us will experience as part of a life cycle–life, death, and resurrection. I do not believe in the doctrine of atonement. I believe that Jesus died for us in the sense of showing what a full life and courageous death look like, and that death is not the end.

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