Holy Week: Good Friday

by Sal on April 10, 2009

in Religion

Behold the wood of the Cross, on which is hung our salvation.  O come, let us adore.

The Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Death is the second part of the Great Liturgy of the Triduum, the heart of the Holiest week of the Church year.  Good Friday is the only day on which no celebration of the Eucharist is celebrated, to mark the solemness of the occasion.  The Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Death begins in silence as the Priest or Deacon and ministers proceed to the altar in silence.  Upon arriving at the altar, the Priests and Deacons lie prostrate before the altar, while the congregation kneels, a sign of extreme reverence and awe at the great act of redemption that is the Cross.

Following a brief prayer, the Liturgy of the Word begins.  The first reading is the famous “Suffering Servant” reading from Isaiah, which prefigures the suffering of the Father’s Servant (“But He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed”) , and His ultimate Triumph (“Because of His affliction, He shall see the light in fullness of days” and “Therefore, I will give Him His portion among the great, and He shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because He surrendered Himself to death).  The Second reading looks at the mystery of the Son of God who endured suffering for our sake (“Son though He was, He learned obedience from what he suffered; and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”).  The Gospel is the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John.  John’s Gospel focuses heavily on the divinity of Christ, and the giving of Himself freely and without reservation.  In John’s Gospel, the surrounding characters are instruments used to facilitate Christ’s redemptive act, of which He is always fully in control.  Concluding the Liturgy of the Word is an extended version of the General Intercessions, in which prayers are fofered for the Church and its people, those preparing for Baptism, all Christians, all people of faith, people without faith, public officials, and for those in special need.  The prayers are often sung, bringing about more solemnity than the usual General Intercessions recited at weekly Mass.

Following the Liturgy of the word, the second part of the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Death begins, the Veneration of the Cross.  The purpose of this rite is to call attention to the saving symbol of our Redemption, the Cross of Christ.  The rite begins with an unveiling of the Cross as the people sing “Behold the Wood of the Cross, on which is hung the salvation of the world.  Come, let us worship.”  The antiphon is sung three times as the cross, covered with a cloth, is slowly unveiled as the Priest or Deacon walks down the aisle of the Church for all to venerate.  Once he reaches the front of the Church, all come forward to venerate the Cross with a sign of reverence, often a kiss or a genuflection.  In this way, attention is called to Christ’s saving action of his passion and death on the symbol that Christians have used as their own for over two thousand years.

Following the veneration is a brief Communion service.  The Altar is prepared, the Eucharist consecrated from Holy Thursday is brought out, and after an Our Father and the normal prayer “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, happy are those who are called to His supper”, all receive communion.  After communion, a brief prayer and blessing are bestowed, and all exit quietly in prayer.

Compared to the previous Evening Mass of the Lord’s supper and the Easter Vigil to follow, the Good Friday portion of the Triduum liturgy is stark and subdued, but that is by design.  By taking a step back from the solemnity to simplicity and somber prayer, we call to mind the great love of God; a love so great that He gave His only Son to save us, sinners though we are.  He came to redeem the world by His Cross and by shedding His Blood, and by His wounds, we are healed.  The story of the Cross would be folly, however, if it ended here.  The great act of Redemption on Good Friday is fulfilled and brought to completion in the joy to be celebrated during the climax of the Great Triduum Liturgy, the Easter Vigil, to be celebrated on Saturday night.

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Holy Week: An Introduction | Axis of Right
April 11, 2009 at 9:03 am

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