FRIDAY, APRIL 22: It’s never happened before, and it won’t happen again for more than 80 years: Today, Good Friday and Earth Day fall on the same day! What’s the big deal, you ask? Some conservative Christians argue that focusing on Earth Day during Good Friday brings paganism into the Church. The two observances have different roots: one reflecting centuries of Christian tradition and the other born in recent decades of activism. But, these two observances have more in common than one might expect.
Good Friday (or Holy Friday) is observed by both Eastern and Western churches today, so 2 billion Christians worldwide remember Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and death. Following a betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus underwent trial, torture and execution on a cross by Roman authorities. (Wikipedia has details.)
The word “solemn” may not convey the depth of feeling traditionally associated with this day: Churches are draped in black, singing is absent from services and altars are bare. Most Christians fast in some form as they grieve the suffering and death of Christ. In many predominantly Christian countries, work and school are suspended so that the faithful can properly mourn. Many Western churches hold mid-day services, often focused around the period from noon to 3 p.m. today, since it’s believed Jesus gave up his spirit and died mid-day. In Eastern Christian churches, the services of the passion of Christ were held last night. (ReadTheSpirit’s ongoing Lenten series describes the Holy Friday liturgy in the Orthodox tradition.)
Good Friday sets a dark stage for those Christians interested in marking Earth Day. Some Christians have proposed that, this year, planting trees is an appropriate response to the wounding of creation represented in Good Friday. (Read an article from Christian Century. Or, check out an interview with a Benedictine Sister in GoErie.) Other Christians insist that Good Friday should follow a traditional focus on Jesus’ sacrifice—and that Earth Day should stand on its own.
Earth Day truly circles the planet today
Earth Day may have begun as a grassroots effort in 1970, but today it is coordinated internationally by the Earth Day Network, and is observed by more than 500 million people in more than 175 countries. (EarthDay.org has more. Or, Wikipedia details Earth Day’s history.)
According to Earth Day Network, Earth Day is now the largest secular holiday in the world; for Earth Day 2011, the theme becomes even larger, with “A Billion Acts of Green.” Visit the official site. You can join the world’s largest environmental advocacy and service project to date with this year’s Earth Day theme!
Even those who don’t pledge can calculate their impact with the Footprint Calculator, donate $1 to plant a tree in a tree in a deforested country, listen to Olympic and professional athletes speak on the environmental movement and much more, at Earth Day Network’s site.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.