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Monday, 14 March 2016

Commentary on Good Friday in English

Praise be to Jesus both now and forever, Amen. I am delighted to welcome you all to this evening’s celebration of the Lord’s Passion; the second of the three days of the Easter Triduum. Today we commemorate and reflect on the mystery of the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and its place in the divine plan of salvation. What we are celebrating today is of capital significance in the life of the church. I invite you therefore to journey with me on a historical path towards its origin.

From the earliest times this has been a day of mourning, due to the painful crucifixion and agonizing death of our Lord. Many of the names given to it in the course of history draw attention to this mournful aspect. The official, name of Good Friday was attached to this celebration 1955 because it is the “Friday of the Passion and Death of the Lord”. Before then it was “Friday of Preparation for the Pasch”. In the 3rd century, Good Friday was known as the Pasch of the Crucifixion. However, St. Ambrose called it “Day of Bitterness”.

The symbol of the cross is found in the pre-Christian and non-Christian cultures where it has largely a cosmic or natural significance especially denoting the four dimensions of the universe. However, among the non-Christian cultures in early history, the cross is an instrument of punishment for notorious criminals. As such, the early Christians until the 5th century generally avoided representing the body of Christ on the cross because both pagans and Jews saw an irreconcilable contradiction in the Christians belief that a crucified man could also be God. The early Christians were contended with displaying only the bare cross.

Thus, the cross which has been an emblem of atonement, an instrument of torture, a sign of punishment and evil, now becomes a symbol of victory, of redemption and of total destruction of evil. It represents a victorious concretization of supreme good and the finest symbol of the Christian religion.
It is pertinent to underscore that from the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday; instead the church celebrates the special liturgy in which the account of the Passion according to John is read, a series of intercessory prayers are offered, and the faithful venerate the cross by coming forward and kissing it. And this liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. In this celebration however,

    - We listen to the words of scripture and strive to understand the true meaning of his suffering and death.
     - We pray with his spirit for the needs of the whole world
        - We worship the cross as the sign of his triumph
    - We enter into sacramental communion with him who is our saviour and our life.

In this connection, we can see that the parts of the Good Friday service corresponds to the division of the Mass:

 Liturgy of the Word 
Intercessory prayers for the church and the entire world, Christians and non-Christians
     Veneration of the cross
 Liturgy of the Holy Communion

Procession: In a short while, the procession will commence. As it begins, we all are expected to stand and as the priests prostrate before the altar, we all are expected to knell. This will be in silence. When the principal celebrant goes to his seat with other ministers, he faces the people and with his hands joined, he says the opening prayer.

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD (crosscheck with the recommended readings for the liturgical year)

FIRST READING:  ISAIAH [52:13 – 53:12]
The prophet prefigures Christ’s suffering and death, whom through his solidarity with the sinful humanity, became the source of our eternal salvation.
SECOND READING: HEBREWS [4:14-16; 5:7-9]
The author assures the faithful of a Mediator who identifies with and locates humanity in our present concrete life’s situation. Hence we are encouraged to look up to Him for Grace and Mercy.
THE GOSPEL: JOHN [18:1-19:42]: The evangelist captures the passion of Jesus as truly an hour of exaltation and his trial as an assertion of his Kingship. Hence by bearing his cross, He is indeed the Passover as well as the Paschal.

This long beautiful and solemn prayers, concludes the liturgy of the word. Here we join the principal celebrant who will introduce the prayers. We shall also make our reverence for a period of time by kneeling and standing.

With the general intercession over, we come to another solemn moment of our celebration the veneration of the cross. Here the principal celebrant shall receive a large veiled cross accompanied by two minor ministers with lighted candles from the central isle of the chapel. This he will unveil singing ECCE LIGNUM CRUCIS (Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Savior of the world) and we shall respond “VENITE ADOREMUS” (Come, let us worship). At this we shall all kneel and venerate the cross briefly in silence
Now the principal celebrant and other priests will venerate the cross after which we shall all join in venerating the cross by a simple genuflection, you may also kiss it. As we carry out this reverence let us bear in mind that the motif of the unveiling and veneration of the cross is one of glorious triumph.
With the veneration over the cross will be carried to its place on the altar wherein lighted candles will be placed on its either side.

This is the third part of this celebration. Here the altar will be covered with a white cloth; the corporal and the missal are placed on it. Without procession, the Blessed Sacrament is brought from the altar of repose while we all stand in silence. The priest will be accompanied by two ministers with lighted candles. Upon reaching the sanctuary, the priest will place the ciborium (a) on the altar and uncover them.
With hands joined he intones the Pater Noster and we shall all join in the reciting it.
There will be no kiss of peace and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)
At the conclusion of the recitation, the priest says quietly the prayer before Holy Communion. He receives and then distributes to everyone else.
Now the remaining Sanctissimum will be solemnly reposed in the altar of repose by the priest accompanied by two ministers with lighted candles. We shall all remain standing as the ministers’ return to their respective places on the altar.
After a brief silence, the priest prays the concluding prayer. This is followed by the prayer over the people for dismissal.   All depart in silence. 
Credit: Eya Mathew (Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Nigeria)

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