Good Friday Facts

woman at the crossGood Friday is now primarily celebrated by a service combining a number of separate practicess. We start by the reading of three sets of lessons followed by “bidding prayers”(pleas to heaven for mercy). This probably represents a type of aliturgical service of great antiquity of which more extensive survivals remain in the Gallican and Ambrosian liturgies.

The liturgy takes on a different reverential form after this

The fact that the reading from the Gospel is represented by the whole Passion according to St. John is merely the accident of the day. Secondly there is the “Adoration” of the Cross, equally a service of great antiquity, the earliest traces of which have already been noticed in connection with Ætheria’s account of Holy Week at Jerusalem.

With this veneration of the Cross is now associated  with the Improperia (reproaches) and the hymn “Pange lingua gloriosi lauream certaminis”. The Improperia, despite their curious mixture of Latin and Greek — agios o theos; sanctus Deus, etc. — are probably not so extremely ancient as has been suggested by Probst and others.

Although the earliest suggestion of them may be found in the Bobbio Misal, it is only in the Pontificale of Prudentius, who was Bishop of Troyes from 846 to 861, that they are clearly attested (see Edm. Bishop in “Downside Review”, Dec., 1899). In the Middle Ages the “creeping to the cross” on Good Friday was a practice which inspired special devotion, and saintly monarchs like St. Louis of France set a conspicuous example of humility in their performance of it.

Finally, the Good Friday service ends with the so-called “Mass of the Presanctified”, which is of course no real sacrifice, but, strictly speaking, only a Communion service.

The sacred ministers, wearing their black vestments, go to fetch the consecrated Host preserved at the altar of repose, and as they return to the high altar the choir chant the beautiful hymn “Vexilla regis prodeunt”, composed by Venantius Fortunatus. Then wine is poured into the chalice, and a sort of skeleton of the Mass is proceeded with, including an elevation of the Host after the Pater Noster.

The great consecratory prayer of the Canon, with the words of Institution, are entirely omitted. In the early Middle Ages Good Friday was quite commonly a day of general Communion, but now only those in danger of death may receive on that day.

The Office of Tenebrae, being the Matins and Lauds of Holy Saturday, is sung on Good Friday evening, but the church otherwise remains bare and desolate, only the crucifix being unveiled. Such devotions as the “Three Hours” at midday, or the “Maria Desolata” late in the evening, have of course no liturgical character.

Biblically, we know that Jesus  saw three courts.

The crucifixion of Jesus is recorded in the New Testament books, known as the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The Roman governor Pontius Pilate was reluctant when it came to the punishment for Jesus. Pilate could find no wrong in Jesus, yet he wanted to give the people what they wanted, and that was the death of Jesus. Pilate washed his hands in front of the crowd to symbolize that he was not taking responsibility for the bloodshed of Jesus and then handed Jesus over to be beaten and lashed.

Right up to his final hours on earth, Jesus preaches forgiveness.


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