Good Friday Theology of the Body

Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)
4 min readMar 29, 2024
Most of the Passion Play spectators at Golgotha

“Prior to the time of Descartes, Bacon and Newton, man lived in an animated, spiritual world, saturated with meaning, imbued with moral purpose. The nature of this purpose was revealed in the stories people told each other — stories about the structure of the cosmos and the place of man. But now we think empirically (at least we think we think empirically), and the spirits that once inhabited the universe have vanished.” — Dr Jordan B Peterson, Maps of Meaning

Yesterday I went to the Re-enactment of Our Lord’s Passion (Good Friday “Passion Play”) at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy Penrose Park, located between Sydney and Canberra. I was planning to attend Wesley Mission’s street theatre performance at the Martin Place Amphitheatre instead, but I’ve been to that before and suspected that it was going to be not-so-physical and PG-rated as usual.

I heard that the realistic-ish Passion Play attracts thousands each year and I initially wanted to avoid the logistical stress. Then one of the Passion Play actors messaged me early in the morning, asking if I was coming. I felt I couldn’t ignore him, and I wasn’t sure why at first.

Being last-minute Dana, I didn’t take into account the road accidents on the Hume Highway yesterday morning, and the southbound queue to cross the Hwy into the Shrine. Rookie mistake really. Anyway, I turned up on time for the arrest of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. It didn’t matter that the speaker systems weren’t that great, after all, speaker systems didn’t exist during Jesus’ time.

The entire Play was set up as Stations of the Cross across the dusty bushland. As a spectator, you either pre-Stationed yourself because you’ve been to the Play before and know where the best viewing spots are, or you’re a noob like me and followed the actors around. The poor Play staff having to do crowd control! It reminded me of some of the protests that I’ve attended in the past, the adrenaline rush and all.

Clearly it was a emotional experience for every*body*. Why did attending in *person* matter? Why not just watch a Passion movie at home instead? After all, we all know how the Good Friday story plays out already. To answer these questions, one should first ask, why did the Word became *flesh* and dwelt among us (John 1:14 NKJV)? As a trans woman, what does my *body* mean to me? Why do I turn up to protests in *person*? Why am I going around holding a “I’m trans and Christian, ask me anything” sign?

Why did this physical fight break out at the Play?

Internal monologue continues: Am I not a walking mind-body-religion contradiction? Why am I Aristotelian in my Christianity? When all is asked and done, why do I still feel okay with my medically transitioned body? When one turns to Christ, how much should one dwell on past sins? I’d say, not to the extent that it prevents one from walking with Christ, including bodily walking with Christ at the Play.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16 NKJV). So I walked with Him, and I walked with others whose hearts only He knows, to Golgotha. Actually, one criticism: some people kept filming for most of the Play. I kept that to a bare minimum to live in the bodily moment.

Some shrines I walked past in the bushland

After the Play, I went on a shrine self-tour around the bushland, ending up at the Shrine Church. For a modern Catholic Church building, it was beautiful inside. It showed the truth, goodness and beauty of the body of Christ.

A perfect communion depicting good bodily relationships, true statements for the mind and beautiful experiences for the soul

(You can probably now tell that my favourite Gospel is John) There are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (John 21:25 NKJV). So (infinitely) much to unpack John 21:25, so little time before the End Time to dwell on whether I am a walking contradiction or not. I have spent too much of my life dwelling in my mind, that I must keep fighting for body and soul!

The Two Crowns, Sir Frank Dicksee 1900

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Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)

Trans-inclusionary radical feminist (TIRF) | Liberal Arts phenomenologist from @notredameaus | Anglo-catholic | all opinions expressed here are my own