Good Friday

Good Friday

Though the term "good" is widely used in English, leading us to believe that the name originates from the idea that something exceedingly good (our redemption) occurred on this day, that is not the case. It's unclear where the word "good" came from. Some claim it comes from "Gottes Freitag," or "God's Friday," while others insist it comes from the German "Gute Freitag" and isn't specifically English. Furthermore, others claim that the name derives from a Medieval usage of the word "good," which signified "holy." Therefore, "Good Friday" would have originated from "Holy Friday," in the same manner that Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday do.

On Good Friday, the entire Church focuses her attention on the Cross at Calvary. Every Christian seeks to comprehend the price Christ paid to secure our salvation. We join ourselves to our Saviour and consider our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord through the solemn traditions of Good Friday, including the Adoration of the Cross, the chanting of the "Reproaches," the reading of the Passion, and the reception of the pre-consecrated Host.

It appears as though the Church is in sorrow, with the altar barren, the entrance of the empty tabernacle standing open, and all of its decorations gone. This day was known as the "Pasch (passage) of the Crucifixion" and was described as a "day of mourning, not a day of festive joy" in the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions.

It indicates that the liturgical commemoration of this day of Christ's suffering, crucifixion, and death has existed since the early days of the Church. While there is no Mass on this day, Good Friday's celebration is known as the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified because it includes the distribution of Communion to the faithful that was already consecrated on Holy Thursday.

Traditionally, all bells and other instruments are silent from Holy Thursday until the Alleluia at the Easter Vigil; unaccompanied chant is the only musical accompaniment throughout this time.

Because Mass reminds us of the Lord's victory over death, the source of our blessings and joy, the removal of the prayer of consecration exacerbates our sense of loss. The solitary nature of today's ceremonies serves as a reminder of Christ's suffering and humility during his Passion. It is evident that the components of the Good Friday liturgy line up with the sections of Mass:

1. Liturgy of the Word - Reading of the Passion.
2. Intercessory prayers for the Church and the entire world
3. Veneration of the Cross
4. Communion, or the 'Mass of the Pre-Sanctified.'

The Veneration of the Cross
The practice of Adoration of the Cross was brought to Rome by the Church in Jerusalem in the seventh century. Since the fourth century, a piece of wood thought to be the Lord's cross has been annually honored on Good Friday. Tradition has it that St. Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, found a piece of the Holy Cross while on a visit to Jerusalem in 326. This liturgy in Jerusalem is described in a fifth-century account. The wood of the cross was placed into a gold-plated silver coffer that was brought forward. As the priest said, "Behold, the Wood of the Cross," as all priests have done since, the bishop set the relic on a table in the chapel of the Crucifixion and the devout gathered around it, putting their brows, eyes, and lips to the wood.

We honor the cross of our Lord, which served as the means of our salvation, by bowing down before and kissing the crucifix. We are essentially worshiping Christ when we revere His Cross because it is inseparable from His sacrifice. Thus we affirm: 'We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You because by Your Holy Cross You have Redeemed the World.'

The Reproaches and the Reading of the Passion
When people are venerating the Cross on Good Friday, a priest will frequently recite the Reproaches (Improperia). Christ himself 'reproaches' us in this poem-like chant with a very old origin, helping us to realize how much our iniquity and hardness of heart led our loving and innocent Savior to suffer.

The Passion is read aloud three times throughout Holy Week: on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. According to an old tradition, three clergy read the three main sections from the sanctuary: Jesus (always read by a priest), the Narrator who reads all the other individual parts. The congregation plays a part in this as well; we are the ones who sentence the Lord to death. Experiencing our own voices saying "Crucify him" or "Away with Him" makes us more aware of our own sins and its role in His death.

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