Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Solemn Celebration
of the Lord's Passion

The greatest day of infamy in human history. The only truly just man, the one human being who has been fully human, fully alive, is condemned by humanity to ignominious death, despised and rejected. This day the Cross is held before humanity like a mirror: goodness and truth have come to you, and this is how you respond. This is you, unadorned, without your fig-leaves. The Cross reveals humanity to itself.

But more importantly, the Cross reveals God to us. “God is such that he identifies himself with man, right down into this abyss and he judges him by saving him. In the abyss of human denial is revealed the still more nexhaustible abyss of the divine love”. (Jospeh Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity). Because of this revelation of divine love, we can dare to call today “Good” Friday.

St Mark tells us that Jesus was crucified around noon, and died around 3pm:
And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him... And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole earth until the ninth hour. Mark 15:25, 33.
It is for this reason the Liturgy begins at 3pm. We might appropriately spend the 3 hours during which Jesus suffered in quiet prayer individually.

Today’s Liturgy is stark, dramatic and powerful. In complete silence the priest and servers enter. The priest then prostrates himself, while all kneel: we abase ourselves because humanity has abased the Lord; we fall to our knees in recognition of what humanity has done.

After we rise, the priest immediately says the Opening Prayer and we listen to the Scriptures.

The Passion is narrated as it was done on Palm Sunday, today the Passion according to St John. Again the congregation gives voice to the crowds who rejected the Lord. Each one of us rejects the Lord in some way; each one of us fails to be fully human, fully honest, fully just. No human being is an innocent bystander in the rejection of the Son of Man. Once again we kneel when we reach the moment of the Lord’s death.

After the homily we offer the Solemn Prayers of Good Friday: for the Church, the Pope, the faithful, those engaged in public affairs, catechumens, the needs of the faithful, unity, the Jewish people, those who reject Christ. These intentions are called the Great Intercessions, and we kneel after each.

Then the Cross is brought in, preceded by incense, and elevated three times. After each elevation we kneel. We kneel three times because the Lord was mocked three times: in the high priest's courtyard, in Pilate's house, and on Mt. Calvary. The Cross we use contains a relic of the True Cross, and we come up to kiss and venerate the instrument of our redemption. The priest first takes off his shoes, like Moses before God, which we might all do as well.

Meanwhile the choir sing the Improperia (the Reproaches) of Christ, in which Our Lord reminds of us all He has done for us and our ingratitude towards Him: “O my people! What have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!” The verses sing of our salvation history and the great things God has done for us. But despite all that, the Cross stands before us: “O my people! What have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!”

After all have venerated the Cross, it is placed on a stand, where we might spend some time in prayer at any time throughout the rest of the day, and we all sing “When I survey the wondrous Cross”.

The priest then goes to the Altar of Repose to fetch the Blessed Sacrament. We receive Holy Communion, receiving Hosts consecrated at yesterday's Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Following the Prayer after Communion, all depart in silence.

Holy is God!
Holy and Strong!
Holy and Immortal one – Have mercy on us!

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