Posted by: geolocke | 2014/04/20

A Very Good Friday

My Good Friday was a busy one. I’m glad I was able to accomplish everything I needed to do, including chores around the house and singing for both the traditional 3pm Good Friday Service and again with the Choir for the 7pm service held for those who had to work earlier in the day.

The Gospel for Good Friday service picks up where we left off Thursday, beginning with Jesus’ arrest in the garden and progressing through his ‘trials’, his scourging, his crucifixion, death and burial.  The service itself focuses on three things.  The liturgy of the word, Adoration of the Cross, and Eucharist.

The service begins with the Priest and Deacon entering the Sanctuary silently. Upon reaching the steps at the base of the Altar they stop and prostrate themselves (lay face down on the floor) in silent prayer and humility while the congregation kneels in respect and acknowledgement of their commitment and we offer prayers of strength for the Priest and Deacon that they might complete the remainder of the Triduum and Easter Celebrations.  Then the Priest and Deacon rise, take their place behind the Altar and the Liturgy of the word begins.

The Proclamation of the word begins with a reading from Isaiah (52:13-53:12) followed by the singing of the Psalm (31), then a reading from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews (4:14-16 & 5:7-9) and finally, the singing of the Gospel Acclamation and the Proclamation from John’s Gospel (18:1-19:42).

After the Proclamation of John’s Gospel, the priest gives a short Homily (teaching) and then we have intercessions (prayers) for the world. The Prayers for Good Friday include:

For the Pope, the successor of St. Peter

For all Bishops, Priests, Deacons and all the faithful

For those who are about to be Baptized (Catechumens)

For the Unity of all Christians

For the Jewish People, the first people to hear and follow God’s Word

For all those who do not believe in Christ

For all those who do not believe in God

For all those who serve in Public Office

For all those who are experiencing Trials and Tribulations.

After completion of the Liturgy of the word and the intercessions, the Deacon silently leaves the Sanctuary and returns bearing a replica of the Cross being led by two Altar servers bearing lit candles. The deacon pauses three times in his procession, once upon entering the Sanctuary, once midway to the Altar and finally upon reaching the foot of the Altar. Each time he pauses, he lifts the Cross high and proclaims; “Behold the Wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world.” Each time we reply; “Come let us adore.” Next the Priest, Deacon and Altar Servers all Adore the Cross, typically gesturing with a kiss or some other sign of affection. Then the Priest and Deacon hold the Cross while the members of the Congregation come forward and adore the Cross. After everyone has adored, the Cross is laid at the foot of the Altar. Then we have our Communion service.

While the Priest prepares the Altar, the Deacon leaves the Sanctuary with the Two Altar Servers to retrieve the Sacred Consecrated Hosts which were removed from the Tabernacle on Holy Thursday. The Deacon returns reverently bearing the Sacred hosts while the Altar Servers lead him bearing lit candles. Upon reaching the Altar, the Priest takes the Sacred Hosts from the Deacon and divides them among several vessels from which they will be distributed to the members of the Congregation. The Priest then invites us to pray the Lord’s Prayer (the Our Father) together, followed afterward by the distribution of the Eucharist in Communion. After all have been fed, the Priest gathers the remaining Sacred Hosts in a vessel and gives it to the Deacon who returns them to their place of Reposition apart from the Tabernacle while the Priest and Altar Servers once more clear the Altar.

Upon the Deacon’s return there is  a moment of silently Prayer of reflection and thanksgiving. Then the Priest and Deacon Rise, the Priest bestows a Blessing upon us and then he and the Deacon Leave the Sanctuary silently, just as they had done so coming in.

All in all, the service lasts about one and a half hours. It is a very powerful focusing on the Word, the Cross and the Body of Christ.  It is a service that leaves me with deep reflections on just what all we celebrate during this season. Not the least of which is “Why is it called *Good* Friday?” I mean with all the telling of betrayal, abuse, torture and death, what can possibly be thought of as Good on this day? For me, the answer lies as much with Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary as it does with Christ’s Resurrection on Easter.

We have to remember that Jesus was both Son of God and Son of Mary. From God, Jesus inherited his Divinity. From Mary, Jesus inherited his Humanity, and part of that Humanity was the God’s gift of free will. In John’s Gospel there is a passage where Pilate is questioning Jesus about his kingdom and Jesus at one point responds “If I wanted to, I could call down twelve legions of Angels who would protect me.” This is not boasting but just stating a fact. The thing that is the focus for me is that Jesus had Free Will.

Jesus could have chosen to exercise His free will and use His Divinity to save himself from the coming doom. But instead, he chose to exercise His free will and remain a powerless human and face all the coming terror, placing His trust in God, in order that God’s plan might be accomplished through him.

He gave up His Free Will for the Will of God, the Father. (not my will, but Thy Will be done) just as his mother Mary had done at the Annunciation (Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me as you will).

This, for me, is why it is called Good Friday. Because Jesus chose to submit His Will to the Will of God so that human kind would have the chance for redemption. For me, that makes it a very good Friday.

Now it’s on to tonight’s celebration, the great Easter Vigil Mass, where we retell the whole story of our salvation, starting with Genesis 1:1 and culminating with Mary Magdalene’s finding of the Empty Tomb on Easter Morning. may the Lord give His strength to all who serve His people this evening. Amen.

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