Liturgical Year
Part 3 Easter

Chapter y35 Good Friday

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

The Liturgy of Good Friday

Part 1  Liturgy of the Word

General Intercessions

Part 2  Veneration of the Cross

The Symbol of the Cross

Part 3  Holy Communion

Devotions on Good Friday

Pastoral Implications for the Liturgy

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

The liturgy of Good Friday, "The Celebration of the Lord's Passion", is "the most sober liturgy of the Church Year."   "The liturgy of Good Friday is the glorious celebration of the most momentous event in history:  the destruction of Death!"   How do you harmonize these two very divergent themes?

Before 1955, parishes in the USA celebrated "The Seven Last Words" and "The Way of the Cross" during the time between noon and 3:00 PM on Good Friday.  Some cultures have processions with "floats" depicting historical scenes of the passion of Christ. Some cultures act out the passion of Christ and some even nail Jesus to the Cross.  How can these devotions which recall and enact the past historical event be harmonized with the liturgical notion of anamnesis

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Bibliography

Second Vatican Council. Constitution on the Sacred, #110, § 2.

Norms Governing Liturgical Calendars, #18 and 20..

Lectionary for Mass, #41.

Code of Canon Law. Book IV, Part III, Title II: Sacred Times (cc 1244-1253). Canons 1251-1253. CLSA Commentary, pp 853-855.

Fr. Raymond Brown, "The Passion According to John," Worship 49:2 (March 1975) pp 126-134. [I have found this article very useful for preparing my homily on this day.]

Lewis, David. "Touch Wood." Expository Times. February 1986. 148-149.

Martimort, A. G. (Editor). The Liturgy and Time, Volume IV of The Church at Prayer. New Edition. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1986, pp 49-50, 54-55.

Martz, Robert G. "A Day for Foolishness." Dialogue. Fall 1983. 306-307.

Nocent, Adrian. The Liturgical Year. Volume 3: The Easter Season. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1977. 64-93.

Parsch, Pius. The Church's Year of Grace. Vol. 2. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1953. 332-338.

Paul VI. Poenitemini. Apostolic Letter of February 17, 1966.

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The Liturgy of Good Friday

Sobriety:    

The liturgy of Good Friday, "The Celebration of the Lord's Passion", is "the most sober liturgy of the Church Year."

The altar is bare. 
Liturgical ceremonies are in their most primitive form (e.g. no introduction to the gospel, etc.) 
No Sacraments are celebrated today. 
Sacrament of Reconciliation.  No "confessions" on this day.  Lent, the appropriate time for the Sacrament,  is over.

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Part 1:  Liturgy of the Word

General Principal:  "The Church Year is the way we read the Bible."  How do Isaiah 54, Hebrews 4-5, and John 18-19 make the day "Good Friday"?

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion (formerly:  Passion Sunday)
contrasted with
Good Friday

General Principal:  "The Church Year is the way we read the Bible."

On Passion Sunday we read the Passion of the Lord from one of the Synoptic Gospels -- hence the name "Passion Sunday"

On Good Friday we proclaim the Passion according to John
John's passion account is very different from that of the synoptics. 
All is from the viewpoint of the Resurrection. 
Jesus, the great "I AM", reigns glorious from the tree.
No one needs to help Jesus carry the cross in John.
Jesus doesn't suffer on the cross, he reigns on the cross.
Jesus doesn't die, he hands over the spirit [to the Church].
The cross is presented as a symbol of Christ's victory.
Christ has taken the sting out of death.
"Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
The Cross which had been a symbol of suffering, torture, and death, has become a symbol of triumph, glory, and life.

 

Note the difference between a proclamation of the Passion according to John, and presentation of a "generic" passion account compiled from the various accounts of the passions (as is often the case with passion plays, historical reenactments, and movies.

In the Gospel of John, when we look at the image of Jesus on the cross we look through the suffering to see LOVE.

1.  Sacraments are "visible signs of the invisible God" -- doors to the sacred -- glimpses through God's bedroom window!

2.  Marriage is about the union of two people in a covenant of love; the Sacrament of Marriage is primarily about God.  Marriage tells us something about God and God's inner life of loving. 

3.   "... For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."   Marriage involves a "leaving", a "dying".  But the emphasis is not on the "leaving/dying" but on the "union of love", the "becoming one."  When the bride walks down the aisle in her beautiful dress with the organ playing, etc. we don't think "She's walking to her death!"  That is true, of course, but our focus is on the "union of love", the "becoming one." 

4.  Jesus is the uhr-sacrament.   Jesus is the visible sign of the invisible God.  Jesus, by his words and deeds, reveals God's "plan" for creation, the "Mysterion", the Paschal Mystery.

4a.  In this plan, this kingdom, we are all brothers and sisters, caring for one another; or even more, we are members of one body, intimately united in purpose and concern. In this plan the world is a place of justice for the poor, a place of inclusion for those whom society has place on the margins or discarded, a place of peace, a place where growth and maturity are fostered, a place where the entire earth and all of creation is cared for and protected and nurtured....

4b.  If this kingdom, God's kingdom,  were to come, the kingdom we have now would have to go!   And the people who have power in the current kingdom might loose that power.  No one likes to loose power. And the powerful at the time of Jesus, made sure God's kingdom would not come by killing the messenger of the kingdom.

4c.  But Jesus  [to use the marriage metaphor] had so "left his" own will, thoughts of comfort, power, prestige, etc to become "one in mind and heart with the beloved"  i.e. to announce God's will, that he let nothing, even death, even death on a cross separate him from that Love.

5.  On the cross we see the ultimate sign (sacrament) of God's Love -- Love which conquers death itself.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  O Death, where is your sting.  The liturgy of Good Friday is the glorious celebration of the most momentous event in history:  the destruction of Death!    The cross, the sign of ignominy, has become the sign of victory.  [The "electric chair" has become "a royal throne".]

6.  This is the basis for the contemporary insights into the meaning of Christian Sacrifice.  "Authentic Christian Sacrifice is not some object that we manipulate, nor is it something that we do, or something we give up.  It is first and foremost, a mutually self-giving event that takes place between persons.  It is, in fact, the most profoundly personal and interpersonal event that we can conceive or imagine.  It begins, in a kind of first 'moment', not with us but with the self-offering of God the Father in the gift of the Son.  It continues, in a second 'moment', in the self-offering 'response' of the Son, in his humanity and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the Father and for us.  And it continues further in a third 'moment' -- and only then does it begin to become Christian sacrifice - when we, in the human actions that are empowered by the same Spirit that was in Jesus, begin to enter into that perfect, en-Spirited, mutually self-giving, mutually self-communicating personal relationship that is the life of the Blessed Trinity."   (Daly, Sacrifice Unveiled, p 5)  See Chapter e42 Sacrifice

6a.  The contemporary theological investigation into "sacrifice" also has ramifications for the concept of "atonement" and harmonizes with biblical scholarship and research regarding the Book of Genesis.

7.  We come and kiss the wood of the cross and pray:  Thank you for dying for us ...   Thank you for destroying death...  Now I have the strength to live in God's kingdom...  Now I have the strength to bear my cross...  [as many prayers as there are persons praying...]

8.  In the Passion in the Gospel of John  "we go beyond understanding the cross as 'the father's demand for the Son's gruesome death to redeem the world' and 'the neo-Jansenist  fascination with pain' to the Christian tradition that 'becoming holy somehow involves giving something up.' Jesus, realized that if he was to shake up the status quo he would meet with opposition.  His suffering resulted from his rejection of any compromise to his mission.  (Donald C. Maldari, "The Triumph of the Cross,"  AMERICA, March 8, 2004, pp 8-11.)

General Intercessions

The Intentions for our Solemn Prayer (Latin = 1955; English = 2010 translation [ = 1997 translation])

(Lent:  think "Baptism."  Note how this carries through the Triduum also.)

1.  Pro Sancta Ecclesia   For Holy Church [For the Church]
2.  Pro Summo Pontifice   For the Pope
3.  Pro omnibus ordinibus gradibusque fidelium   For all orders and degrees of the faithful [For the clergy and laity of the Church]
4.  (before 1955:  Pro emperatorae Romanae) Pro res publicas moderantibus     For catechumens [For those preparing for baptism] 
5.  Pro catechumenis   For the unity of Christians
6.  Pro fidelium necessitatibus    For the Jewish people
7.  Pro unitate ecclesiae   For those who do not believe in Christ
8.
  Pro conversione Judaeorum  For those who do not believe in God
9.
  Pro conversione infidelium   For those in public office [For all in public office]
10.
  ---  For those in tribulation   [For those in special need]

Note:  If "for pastoral reasons" you decide to not say all ten, be careful that you still include everyone in the petitions.

Intercession for the Jews

1955  Revised Holy Week text    8.  For the conversion of the Jews:  Let us pray also for the Jews.  May the Lord our God tear the veil from their hearts so that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. ...  Almighty and everlasting God, you do not refuse your mercy to the Jews.  Hear the prayers which we offer for that people.   May they acknowledge the light of your truth, which is Christ.  May they be brought out of all darkness:  through the same our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

1965  Nostra Aetate    Second Vatican Council. Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions ("Nostra Aetate"), October 28, 1965. (Available on line)

1969  Missal of Paul VI     6.  For the Jewish people:  Let us pray / for the Jewish people, / the first to hear the word of God, / that they may continue to grow in the love of his name / and in faithfulness to his covenant. ... Almighty and eternal God,/ long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. / Listen to your Church as we pray / that the people you first made your own / may arrive at the fullness of redemption.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.  [Jews could pray this prayer comfortably -- though they might mean something different than we do by "fullness of redemption."]

2008 February 4  Prayer to be used by those celebrating Good Friday according to the Missale Romanum of 1962:  [USCCB CDW Newsletter, XLIV, Feb 2008, p 5.  The text is given in Latin because it is only used by those who want to celebrate in Latin, consequently there is no need to translate the prayer into English.  However, for those who do not know Latin, the prayer reads:]    "Let us pray for the Jews:  That Our Lord and God might illumine their hearts to know Jesus Christ, the salvation of all people.  ... Almighty, eternal God, you will that all people come to salvation and the fullness of truth; grant, we beseech you, that all of Israel might be saved and enter into the fullness of your people in Your Church.  [While Jews would find this prayer a bit less offensive than the prayer than to the prayer of 1955, they still would not be able to pray the prayer in good conscience.]

Intercession for the Muslims

1955  Revised Holy Week text   The General Intercessions for Good Friday in the Roman Missal of 1962 after praying for various categories of the faithful, rulers on nations, and the Jews, then prays  in prayer #9 "For the conversion of pagans."   Muslims (and all who who are not Christians or Jews) would be included in this prayer.

Let us pray also for the pagans.
May almighty God take away evil from their hearts. 
May they give up their idols
and be converted to the living and true God
and his only Son, Jesus Christ, our God and Lord.

Almighty and everlasting God,
you always desire not the death but the life of sinners. 
In your goodness hear our prayer. 
Deliver them from idol worship.
Unite them to your holy Church,
to the praise and glory of your name; 
through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

[Muslims who worship the God of Abraham as do Jews and Christians are highly insulted by implying that they worship idols!   However, in the USA the Jews are more organized to respond to defamation of Jews than are Muslims organized to respond to defamation of Muslims, and consequently the response above in answer to their objection to the prayer of 1962.]   (See comments at Chapter u62 Introduction to Islam on Vatican II and Islam)

1969  Missal of Paul VI  Intercession for the Muslims is included in prayer #7 "For those who do not believe in Christ"  and not in prayer #8  "For those who do not believe in God."  I have been at liturgies where the priest included them among those "who do not believe in God"!   This demonstrates woeful ignorance of the world's largest religion.  The current prayer reads:

VII.  For those who do not believe in Christ

Let us pray for those who do not believe in Christ,
that the light of the Holy Spirit
may show them the way to salvation.

Almighty and eternal God
enable those who do not acknowledge Christ
to find the truth
as they walk before you in sincerity of heart.
Help us grow in love for one another,
to grasp more fully the mystery of your godhead,
and to become more perfect witnesses of your love
in the sight of all.

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Part 2:  Veneration of the Cross

Theological Issues   Today the cross is presented not primarily as a symbol of Christ's sufferings but as a symbol of Christ's victory.  Christ has taken the sting out of death.  "Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)  The Cross which had been a symbol of suffering, torture, and death, has become a symbol of triumph, glory, and life.  (Catechetically, when I am presenting this material, I show an electric chair morphing into a royal throne.)    Practically, one must ask:  Where am I with death?  Do I realize I have already died

Ritual Issues:    The veneration is of the cross, not Jesus hanging on the cross.  Ritually the parish should use a cross rather than a crucifix and there should be but one cross rather than multiple crosses.   Is this what happened in your parish this year? 

"Multiplication of Symbols"   When you multiply money you get more money; when you multiply rabbits you get more rabbits; when you multiply symbols you get less symbol.

Songs at the Veneration of the Cross:    The issue is "who caused Jesus to die on the cross"? -- Do the songs and hymns answer this question by saying "It was the Jews!"?   This has been an issue with the "Reproaches." 

Pastoral Issues:   [It is preferable that the principal cross in the sanctuary during the year be the cross used for the veneration on Good Friday; however, this is not always possible.]  A large cross, after the progressive unveiling and "showing" is placed in the sanctuary where it is easily approachable by the people, who are then invited to approach it, reverence it, perhaps kneel beside it, kiss it, touch it, or bow before it (perhaps after having been invited to remove their shoes and stockings so as to approach holy ground in bare feet).  This may not have the "traditional German" appearance of "order" but having people approach from various sides, places, not in procession... has resulted in reports of very reverent and moving liturgical experiences. 

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The Cross as Religious Symbol

A Brief History of the Cross Used as a Religious Symbol
Using the Categories of the "Ten Finger History Grid"

(For an explanation of the "Ten Finger History Grid" click here)

1. Apostolic [0-399]  The cross and crucifixion are horrible instruments of torture and death and their depiction in symbol would not inspire "religious" sentiments.  (For Christians of the 21st century the "reality" of the cross is no longer in the foreground; the cross is primarily a religious symbol.  Try to imagine entering a church and seeing a hangman's noose -- or an electric chair -- sitting on the altar; or perhaps a graphic scene of water boarding on the altar!  We would not be inspired but repulsed!)   "The cross is the preeminent symbol of Christianity, but that wasn't always so. Early Christians preferred to use the sign of the fish to describe their fellowship, and the lamb for their founder. For three centuries they professed their faith in the crucified and risen Lord but could not bring themselves to portray artistically Jesus' execution like a common criminal."  ("Seeing the Cross Anew" by Barbara Beckwith http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Apr2003/Feature2.asp(John Denham Parsons, The Non-Christian Cross: An Enquiry into the Origin and History of the Symbol Eventually Adopted as That of Our Religion. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton Kent & Co., Limited, 1896. http://members.cox.net/srice1/books/parsons/parsons.htm#CH1 ) For the first four hundred years, scenes of Christ's crucifixion are very rare in Christian art because it was though to be an embarrassment that would be misunderstood if depicted.  (Michael Morris OP, Magnificat June 2008, p iv.)

2. Patristic [400-799]  "Only with the fourth-century legalization of Christianity and the end of crucifixion as a form of capital punishment among the Romans did Christians begin to feel free to use the cross in their art. ... It was the finding of the true cross by Emperor Constantine's mother, St. Helena, in 335, and the subsequent division of this relic, that really spurred development of the use of the cross in Christian art. Many early crosses were actually reliquaries, containing fragments of the true cross."  ("Seeing the Cross Anew" by Barbara Beckwith http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Apr2003/Feature2.asp)

3. Early Medieval [800-1199]  The cross in Eastern Iconography depicts Jesus standing on the cross (without suffering); he does not hang on the cross.  Jesus Christ, as we know, is "true God and true man" but it is difficult to hold these two "contradictory" notions together.   At this time in history the "true God" truth was stressed to the detriment of the "true man" truth.  Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, O. Cist. (1090-1153) preaches devotion to Jesus. The stern Lord of the Apocalypse becomes Jesus of of Nazareth.  Mary changes from a stiff Lady of the Medieval Court to become a loving mother, nursing her infant at the breast.

4. Medieval [1200-1299]  Saint Francis of Assisi in 1206 prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano, an eleventh century icon (which now - since 1260 -  is venerated in the Basilica of Saint Clare of Assisi.)  Christ stands on the cross (without suffering); he does not hang on the cross. -- St. Francis was influenced by the followers of Bernard of Clairvaux and develops an intense devotion to the humanity of Jesus.  This devotion is expressed in his devotion to Jesus in the crib and on the cross and in his concern for the geographical places where the historical Jesus lived and walked and died.

5. Late Medieval [1300-1499]  The followers of Francis continue this devotion to the humanity of Jesus; and as they preach about Jesus, we see the effects of their preaching on art.  Jesus begins to be depicted in his humanity, suffering (hanging) on the cross.   Also, during the Renaissance, human anatomy begins to be studied in detail; artists look for ways to express this new interest in human anatomy in their art.  For example, they could "legitimately" depict the nude human body by depicting the death of Saint Sebastian (muscular nude soldier shot with arrows) and the crucifixion of Jesus.   Depictions of Jesus on the cross become more "real" and his suffering more intense.   

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6. Reformation [1500-1699]  The Reformers realized that, during the course of time some essential truths of Christianity had become obscured, and felt tha "in order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.   In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community." (Constitution on the Liturgy, 21)    To this end the Reformers wished to return to a more orthodox understanding of Jesus Christ as "true God" and "true man" for the "true God" truth was stressed to the detriment of the "true man" truth with the consequence that Jesus was no longer the "mediator between God and man" and devotion to Mary and the saints fulfilled this role of mediation.   This is one factor in the removal of statues (and the corpus from the cross).   However, this in itself did not account for the removal of statues and images. 

The more important factor was "the balance between eye and ear / seeing and hearing."  This balance was pointedly expressed by the playwright Thornton Wilder in an interview following a PBS presentation of his play "Our Town".  He was asked:  "Mr. Wilder,  you have unlimited money for staging this performance, why did you choose such a "minimal" stage setting?"  To which he replied:  "When the eye sees too much, the ear doesn't really listen."   In order for "the Christian people, so far as possible, [to] be enabled to understand [liturgical rites] with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community" the reformers put the liturgy in the vernacular languages and restored the Bible and biblical preaching to the liturgical rites.  Consequently, now that the "ear had more to do" there was no longer need, for example, stained glass windows to be "the bible of the poor" for the poor had the real bible!  And Wilder's eye/ear principal comes into effect.  Hence, less decoration, fewer statues, crosses without the depiction of Jesus.

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7. After Trent [1700-1899]  In reaction to this "non-papal" liturgical reform, Rome responds by emphasizing whatever the reformers de-emphasized;  e.g. Crucifixes with a corpus and other Catholic symbols are to be displayed prominently.  For example (1746, and 1822): 

"The crucifix is the principal ornament of the altar.  It is placed on the altar to recall to the mind of the celebrant, and the people, that the Victim offered on the altar is the same as was offered on the Cross. For this reason the crucifix must be placed on the altar as often as Mass is celebrated."  (Accepimus, Benedict XIV, 16 July, 1746). 

"The rubric of the Roman Missal prescribes that the crucifix be placed at the middle of the altar between the candlesticks, and that it be large enough to be conveniently seen by both the celebrant and the people [both of whom are facing the altar and the crucifix].   (Cong. Sac. Rit., 17 September, 1822). (Quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia 1917 edition)

Note how this directive of 1822 is rethought by the year 2000 due to the "rethinking" that resulted from the Second Vatican Council:  "Since a crucifix placed on the altar and large enough to be seen by the congregation might well obstruct the view of the action taking place on the altar, other alternatives may be more appropriate."   (Built of Living Stones, USCCB 2000, #91)

8. Before Vatican II [1900-1959]  The early 1900's saw the beginning of a revival of interest in the liturgy.  This "liturgical movement" prepared the way for the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  

1951 (Feb 9) The Pascal Vigil is restored. 

1955 (Nov 16) The restoration of the liturgy of Holy Week.  The Roman Church begins to pay attention to the "eye/ear" balance.  While the vernacular is not yet permitted, the rubrics for the restored "Holy Thursday"  state (#13) "After the Gospel, it is very fitting to give a short homily..." 

"Here we have a double restoration.  This is the first time that the homily is indicated in the rubrics, and it is the first time that the word homily is used.  Msgr. Jounel, commentating on the double restoration, says:  'Preaching as a liturgical act and as mystery is an integral part of the liturgy of the word.  However, it was practically unknown under these essential aspects since the end of the patristic period.'" (Jounel,  LMD 45 [1956] 27.  Quoted in Thomas Richstatter, Liturgical Law Today, p 37)

9. Vatican II [1960-1975]   Constitution on the Liturgy restores the Bible to the Liturgy.  

24. Sacred scripture is of the greatest importance in the celebration of the liturgy. For it is from scripture that lessons are read and explained in the homily, and psalms are sung; the prayers, collects, and liturgical songs are scriptural in their inspiration and their force, and it is from the scriptures that actions and signs derive their meaning. Thus to achieve the restoration, progress, and adaptation of the sacred liturgy, it is essential to promote that warm and living love for scripture to which the venerable tradition of both eastern and western rites gives testimony.

Biblical scholarship is encouraged.  New insight into the Gospel according to John.  New insight into the liturgy of Good Friday.  Good Friday veneration of the cross rather than crucifix.  "Behold, Behold, the wood of the cross..."  One cross replaces multiple crucifixes.    E.g. articles by Patrick Regan on the Glorious Cross.  [I once participated in the Good Friday liturgy at the abbey when Patrick was the abbot.  The cross was unveiled and displayed and elevated; and monks with censors at full length incensed the cross; and we all sang a glorious, triumphant hymn as the smoke ascended to heaven.  I can still remember the moment and the emotions I felt.   Death had been conquered!  It was a glorious moment of strength and light.] 

A cross is a basic symbol in any Christian liturgical celebration. The advantage of a processional cross with a floor standard, in contrast to one that is permanently hung or affixed to a wall, is that it can be placed differently according to the celebration and the other environmental factors.  While it is permissible for the cross to rest on the altar, it is preferable that it be elsewhere, not only for non-eucharistic liturgies but also so that in eucharistic celebrations the altar is used only for bread and wine and book.  (Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, BCL/NCCB, 1978, #88)

10. After Vatican II [1975-2050]   Some parishes are just now finding out about the revised Good Friday liturgy.  Other parishes have established traditions of one cross displayed in glory.  Others have doubts and fears in particular about the Council's (and Pope John XXIII) desire "That they all may be one."  Do we need a Catholic Christian identity in distinction to Protestant Christian Identity?   For example when the USCCB was discussing Built of Living Stones in 2000, the text regarding "The Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday" (§83) spoke of "cross"  not "crucifix."  During the discussion on the floor, immediately before the vote, one of the bishops noticed this fact and said (as I recall, from watching EWTN) "In these past years many Protestants have become Catholics through the RCIA [sic.  !!!!!] and have left their protestant religion to embrace Catholicism.  Surly on Good Friday  we want to provide them with a Catholic symbol [i.e. crucifix] for veneration and not force them to honor a protestant cross!"  And the words "or crucifix" were added after the phrase "venerate the cross"  so that the text now reads:  "The celebration of the Lord's passion on Good Friday has its particular spatial requirements.  After the proclamation of the passion and the General Intercessions, the entire assembly rise to venerate the cross or crucifix. The cross used for the veneration preferably should be of sufficient size to be held easily, be carried in procession, and be venerated. After the veneration, the cross remains in the sanctuary."  (Note:  "cross" is in the singular.)

The Congregation for Divine Worship in their Book of Blessings (1988), no. 1233 state: "Of all sacred images, the 'figure of the precious, life-giving cross of Christ' is pre-eminent, because it is the symbol of the entire paschal mystery. The cross is the image most cherished by the Christian people and the most ancient; it represents Christ's suffering and victory and at the same time, as the Fathers of the Church have taught, it points to his Second Coming."

In speaking of the "Other Ritual Furnishings" for a church building, the USCCB in Built of Living Stones (§91) states: 

The cross with the image of Christ crucified is a reminder of Christ's paschal mystery. It draws us into the  mystery of suffering and makes tangible our belief that our suffering when united with the passion and death of Christ leads to redemption. There should be a crucifix "positioned either on the altar or near it, and . . . clearly visible to the people gathered there." Since a crucifix placed on the altar and large enough to be seen by the congregation might well obstruct the view of the action taking place on the altar, other alternatives may be more appropriate. The crucifix may be suspended over the altar or affixed to the sanctuary wall. A processional cross of sufficient size, placed in a stand visible to the people following the entrance procession is another option.  If the processional cross is to be used for this purpose, the size and weight of the cross should not preclude its being carried in procession. If there is already a cross in the sanctuary, the processional cross is placed out of view of the congregation following the procession.  

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Part 3:  Holy Communion

Communion or no Communion?    Regarding the distribution of Holy Communion at the revised (1956) Good Friday liturgy, a liturgist made the following observation:

In Rome there was originally no reception of Holy Communion on Good Friday, since it was not the practice to distribute communion outside Mass and this was a day of fasting from Mass and sacraments.  The earliest documentary evidence for Communion on Good Friday is in Constantinople at the beginning of the 7th century. From there it was introduced into the suburban parish churches in Rome, but did not appear in the papal stational liturgy until the 9th century. It soon began to decline and was eventually restricted to only the presiding minister by the beginning of the 13th century; although Communion for all continued in Germany (until the 16th century) and in Spain.  Communion for all was reintroduced universally in the Holy Week reforms of 1956 under the influence of the recent trend towards frequent and even daily Communion following Pius X's efforts to promote frequent Communion [more than once a year].  Since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, some parishes have decided for themselves to forego Communion on Good Friday (having realized that it was only a comparatively recent phenomenon and in order to emphasize the stark and different nature of the day.  [I know of parishes where a conscious decision was taken in consultation with the entire parish and with plenty of advance catechesis. At that time, ecumenical considerations did not enter in, but were a welcome and later addition to their Good Friday practice.]

The Paschal Fast begins on Good Friday and extends to Holy Communion on Easter.  We usually think of Good Friday as the day of fast and abstinence and thus associate the fast with suffering and especially with Jesus' suffering on the cross -- rather than fasting in preparation for the Paschal Feast, and fasting with the Catechumens as they hunger for their first Eucharist.  Catholics do not always associate "fasting from food" with "fasting from the Eucharist" perhaps because we do not think of the Eucharist "eating food" or "sharing a meal" but  as "receiving Communion". 

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Devotions on Good Friday

Before 1955, parishes in the USA celebrated "The Seven Last Words" and "The Way of the Cross" during the time between noon and 3 PM on Good Friday.  Some cultures have processions with "floats" depicting historical scenes of the passion of Christ. Some cultures act out the passion of Christ and some even nail Jesus to the Cross.  How can these devotions which recall and enact the past historical event be harmonized with the liturgical notion of anamnesis

"Popular devotions are to be highly recommended, but such devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, and are in some way derived from it, and lead the people to it, since in fact the liturgy by its very nature is far superior to any of them." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 13) 

The challenge is to incorporate the "piety" and "emotion" of the traditional popular devotions (last words, way of the cross, etc) into the liturgical action so that the liturgy profits from their piety and the devotions profit from the liturgy's Roman sobriety and orthopraxis. 

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Pastoral Implications for the Liturgy

Putting this all together:  While the Missal, the Rubrics, the Liturgical Documents are all "top of the iceberg issues" --objective -- verifiable, etc. -- there are several very important "under the iceberg" issues regarding the pastoral interpretation of these texts:

1.  How does the pastor see his pastoral role?  A guardian of the tradition of the Church?  An instrument of the Holy Spirit as the Church moves forward toward the pleroma, the "fullness" of the mysterion/kingdom?  How do you know the difference between what "needs to be preserved" and what "needs to be changed"?  How are you subconsciously predisposed toward each of these attitudes? 

2.  How does the pastor effectively preach the difference between the passion of Jesus read on Passion Sunday and the passion of Jesus read on Good Friday.  "The Liturgical Year is the way we read the bible."

3.  In the recent past, the liturgical rites on Good Friday were inaccessible to the faithful both because of language and because of the hour at which they were celebrated (early Friday morning); consequently the faithful turned to devotional exercises to express their prayer on Good Friday; e.g. the Way of the Cross; the Seven Last Words; Passion Plays; dramatic readings (often in costume) of a passion story composed of texts from various biblical authors; even reenactments of the passion events where a man is nailed to a cross.  How does the pastor restore the liturgy in this circumstances?   As stated in the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #13: 

"13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See.

Devotions proper to individual Churches also have a special dignity if they are undertaken by mandate of the bishops according to customs or books lawfully approved.

But these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since, in fact, the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them."

An important "under the iceberg" issue for the pastor is his own appreciation of the difference between liturgy and devotions, especially with regard to liturgical prayer as the prayer of the Body of Christ, head and members, and with regard to the theological principle of anamnesis which takes place at liturgy but is not a constitutive element of devotional prayer. 

4.  How does the pastor view the crucifixion:  Is it a vision of suffering?  Is it a vision of loving?  -- What do you call the faithful to imitate in your homily on Good Friday?  Jesus' suffering or his loving?  How is the cross an image of Christian Sacrifice?   How do you understand "sacrifice"?

5.  Has the pastor examined his own personal attitudes toward suffering and death?    Has he moved beyond "the neo-Jansenist  fascination with pain".

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To Think About

1.  In the light of the Good Friday liturgy and contemporary developments in the understanding of Christian Sacrifice, discuss and evaluate contemporary parish celebrations of Good Friday and the Triduum.

2.  In the What is the theological difference between the Good Friday liturgy and a Passion Play?

3.  What is the theology signified in the adoration of the cross? 

The Cross which had been a symbol of suffering, torture, and death, has become a symbol of triumph, glory, and life.  (Catechetically, when I am presenting this material, I show an electric chair morphing into a royal throne.)    Practically, one must ask:  Where am I with death?  Do I realize I have already died

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 10/28/13 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org