Good Friday – 14 April 2017 – A Day of Deep Mourning and Fasting and Abstinence
Today the whole Church deeply mourns the death of our Saviour. This is traditionally a day of sadness, spent in fasting and prayer. The title for this day varies in different parts of the world: “Holy Friday” for Latin nations, Slavs and Hungarians call it “Great Friday,” in Germany it is “Friday of Mourning” and in Norway, it is “Long Friday.” Some view the term “Good Friday” (used in English and Dutch) as a corruption of the term “God’s Friday.” This is another obligatory day of fasting and abstinence. In Ireland, they practice the “black fast,” which is to consume nothing but black tea and water.
According to the Church’s ancient tradition, the sacraments are not celebrated on Good Friday nor Holy Saturday. “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion,” traditionally known as the “Mass of the Presanctified,” (although it is not a mass) is usually celebrated around three o’clock in the afternoon, or later, depending on the needs of the parish.
The altar is completely bare, with no cloths, candles nor cross. The service is divided into three parts: Liturgy of the Word, Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion. The priest and deacons wear red or black vestments. The liturgy starts with the priests and deacons going to the altar in silence and prostrating themselves for a few moments in silent prayer, then an introductory prayer is prayed.
In part one, the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the most famous of the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah (52:13-53:12), a pre-figurement of Christ on Good Friday. Psalm 30 is the Responsorial Psalm “Father, I put my life in your hands.” The Second Reading, or Epistle, is from the letter to the Hebrews, 4:14-16; 5:7-9. The Gospel Reading is the Passion of St. John.
The General Intercessions conclude the Liturgy of the Word. The ten intercessions cover these areas:
For the Church
For the Pope
For the clergy and laity of the Church
For those preparing for baptism
For the unity of Christians
For the Jewish people
For those who do not believe in Christ
For those who do not believe in God
For all in public office
For those in special need
Part two is the Veneration of the Cross. A cross, either veiled or unveiled, is processed through the Church and then venerated by the congregation. We joyfully venerate and kiss the wooden cross “on which hung the Saviour of the world.” During this time the “Reproaches” are usually sung or recited.
Part three, Holy Communion, concludes the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. The altar is covered with a cloth and the ciboriums containing the Blessed Sacrament are brought to the altar from the place of reposition. The Our Father and the Ecce Agnus Dei (“This is the Lamb of God”) are recited. The congregation receives Holy Communion, there is a “Prayer After Communion,” and then a “Prayer Over the People,” and everyone departs in silence.