APRIL 15, 2022 SOURCE: FSSPX.NEWS
Discover the profound spiritual meanings that the special ceremonies of Good Friday intend to convey!
From The Church’s Year of Fr. Leonard Goffine, we offer some instructive points about the Solemn Afternoon Liturgy of Good Friday, one of the most unique and poignant ceremonies of the Roman Rite. Included is the text of St. John’s Passion account as well as some important concluding words about seriously living the example of Our Lord’s Cross in our daily Catholic lives.
Fr. Goffine’s instruction was written prior to Pius XII’s Holy Week Reform (1955), and thus we have included some notes in square brackets  so his comments match the Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus.
Instruction on Good Friday
This day was formerly for the Jewish people a day of preparation for Easter, and was called by them the Parasceve; for us Christians it is the anniversary of the death and burial of our Lord who on this day, being Himself both High-Priest and Victim, offered Himself upon the cross for the salvation of the world.
Why do Catholics hold this day in such veneration?
Because it is one of the greatest days from the beginning of the world to its end. On this day the designs which God had from all eternity were perfected, as Jesus Himself expressed when He said, all is consummated; for on this day He was given up toy the Gentiles by the Jews, was scourged, crowned with thorns, loaded with the cross, dragged to Calvary amid taunts and sneers, there nailed to the cross between two thieves, and by His painful death finished the great work of redemption.
Why did Christ suffer so much to, redeem, us?
To show us what an immense evil sin is, on account of which He underwent such cruel sufferings that He might satisfy divine justice. His love for us was so great that He gave the last drop of His blood to save us. He rendered satisfaction for all men without exception, that none might be lost, that every one might possess eternal life. Look up today, and every day of thy life, to Christ on the cross, and see how God punishes sin, since He did not even spare His only-begotten Son, who took upon Himself our sins, and for them died this cruel death. What death is due to thee, if thou dost not despise and flee from sin?
Why does the Church celebrate the commemoration of the passion of Christ in such solemn quietness?
That we may be induced to thank the Savior for our redemption, and to move us to sincere love for Him by serious meditation on His passion. For this reason St. Paul ordered the observance of this day, and the Christians even in his time sanctified it by deep mourning, and rigorous fasting.
Why do we not observe Good Friday with such festivities as do the Protestants [in Europe]?
Because our grief for our Savior’s death is too great to permit us to celebrate it joyously, even nature mourned His death; the sun was darkened, the earth trembled and the rocks were rent. Although the Christian rejoices on this day in the grace of redemption through Christ, he is aware that his joy cannot be pleasing to God unless he endeavors to participate in the merits of the passion and death of Christ by sorrow for his sins, by amendment and penance; and this is the very reason why the Church solemnizes this day in a sad and touching manner.
Why are there no candles lighted at the beginning of the service?
To signify that on this day Christ, the Light of the world, became, as it were, extinguished.
Why does the priest prostrate himself before the altar at the beginning of the service?
That with him we should consider in deepest sorrow and humility how the Savior died on the cross for our sins, and how unworthy we are on account of them to lift up our faces.
Why does the service commence with the reading of two lessons?
Because Christ died for Jews and Gentiles. The first lesson is from the Prophet Osee, (Osee 6:1-6) and the other from Exodus (Exod. 12:1-11) from them we infer that by the bloody death of the immaculate Lamb Jesus we are healed of our sins, and redeemed from death.
After the first lesson the priest says the following:
COLLECT O God! from whom Judas received the punishment of his sin, and the thief the reward of his confession: grant us the effects of Thy mercy; that as our Lord Jesus Christ at the time of His passion bestowed on each a different recompense of his merits, so having destroyed the old man in us, He may give us the grace of His Resurrection. Who liveth, etc.
REMARK After the Passion the priest prays in behalf of the one, only true Church, that she may increase, and that peace and unity may always remain with her; for the pope, that his government may be blessed; for the bishops, priests, the clergy, and the people, that they may serve God in justice; for those converted to the faith, that they may continue to grow an knowledge and an zeal for the holy religion; for rulers as defenders of the Church, that they may govern with wisdom and justice, and that those under them may be loyal to them with fidelity and obedience; for the unfortunate, that God may have mercy on them; for heretics and apostates, that they may be brought back from error to the truth of the Catholic faith; for the Jews, that they may be enlightened; for the heathens, that they may be converted.
Before each prayer the priest says “Oremus” (“Let us pray”), “Flectamus genua” (“Let us kneel”) and at the call “Levate” (“Rise up”) we rise. [At the conclusion of the prayer the faithful respond “Amen”.] As Christ on this day prayed for all men, the Church desires, that we do the same; say, therefore, the following:
PRAYER O Lord Jesus! who on the cross, while enduring the most excruciating pain, didst pray with a loud voice for all men, we humbly pray Thee for Thy vicar, Pope N., for our bishop N., for all the priests and clergy, for our civil government, for the neophytes, for the unfortunate and oppressed, for all Catholics, that Thou mayst preserve them in the true faith, and strengthen them, that they may serve Thee according to their different vocations. We pray Thee also for all unbelievers, and those separated from the true fold, for the Jews, and for the heathens, that Thou mayst unite all in Thy holy Church, and bring them to eternal salvation. Amen.
What is done by the priest after these prayers?
The priest then goes down from the epistle side of the altar, takes the veiled crucifix, and extending it towards the people, uncovers it so much that the head is seen, and sings in a low voice: “Ecce lignum crucis, etc.”: “Behold the wood of the cross on which the Salvation of the world was hanged!” The choir answers: “Venite, adoremus”: “Come, let us adore!” at which all kneel, adoring Christ who died on the cross for us.
The priest then advances to the corner of the altar, uncovers the right arm of the Crucifix, and sings in a higher tone: “Ecce lignum crucis, etc.”; to which the choir responds as before.
Then at the middle of the altar he uncovers the entire Crucifix, and elevating it, sings in a still higher tone than before: “Ecce lignum, etc.” The choir responds again: “Venite adoremus.”
The image of the crucified Redeemer, which has been hidden from our view since Passion Sunday should make a deep impression upon us; it teaches us at the same time how the Savior became gradually known to the world. Jesus is adored three times, because He was mocked three times: in the courtyard of the high-priest, in Pilate’s house, and on Mt. Calvary.
When the crucifix is unveiled the priest [gives it to an acolyte to hold while he removes his shoes] like Moses, when he was about to approach Almighty God [and then venerates the crucifix, making three genuflections while approaching he] meditates on the passion of Christ [until he is] directly in front of the crucifix. He adores Jesus with humility, considers His infinite love, which brought Him to the cross and laid Him in the sepulcher for our Redemption; and then kisses with reverence the image of the crucified Savior.
During this veneration of the cross the choir chants alternately the versicles called the Reproaches, and between each part of the canticle the following words in Greek and Latin: “Holy God! Holy and strong God! Holy and immortal God! have mercy on us!” In these versicles Christ tenderly and lovingly reproaches the people who crucified Him, which we may also take to ourselves, who have so often crucified Jesus anew by sin. They are therefore called reproaches, words of complaint, and continue during the veneration of the cross by the priest. Afterwards a hymn of praise composed by St. Fortunatus [Crux fidelis] is sung in honor of the victory gained on the cross by our Savior, which calls upon us also to render praise and thanks to Jesus crucified.
Adore also in deepest humility the Savior who died on the cross, and is now victoriously enthroned; ask with sincere contrition the forgiveness of your sins, and by a threefold advance, kiss with sincere love His sacred wounds, promising to love all men, even your enemies, and to have pity on all in distress, according to His example.
What follows the veneration of the cross?
[The Hosts in the ciborium reserved at the altar of repose since Holy Thursday evening are brought in solemn procession by the priest to the high altar. The Pater noster is then recited by all as part of the preparation for Holy Communion followed by the Fraction of a Host during the Libera me and the usual prayers said before the priest communicates with the Sacred Body of Our Lord during Mass. After Communion, the Solemn Liturgy is concluded with three prayers recalling “the blessed Passion and death” of Our Savior and begging the “merciful Lord” that through these redemptive acts we might be saved.]
Is there, then, no Mass said on this day?
No; for on this day there is no bread and wine consecrated, which is the essential part of the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Why is no Mass said on this day?
Because Jesus Christ having this day sacrificed Himself on the altar of the cross in a bloody offering, it is not meet that His death sacrifice should be today repeated even in an unbloody manner. Besides this, Mass is a joyous and comforting sacrifice, and is therefore omitted because of our mourning.
What devotions may be practiced today?
Besides adoring Jesus in the holy sepulcher, the stations may be said, meditations made on the sufferings of our Lord. Let the words of St. Augustine touch your heart, when he places the crucified Redeemer before our mind in the following words:
Behold the wounds of Jesus who is hanging on the cross, the blood of the dying, the price of our redemption! His head is bowed to give the kiss of peace; His side is open to love; His arms are extended to embrace us; His whole body sacrificed for our redemption. Let these words be the subject of your meditation that He may be wholly in your heart who is nailed to the cross for you.”
Manner of contemplating Christ’s bitter Passion
Christ also suffered for us: leaving you an example that you should follow his steps. (I Peter 2:21)
St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes:
Whence does it come that so many of the faithful look with so much indifference at Christ on the cross? They generally assist during Holy Week at the commemoration of His death without any feeling of gratitude or compassion, as if it were a fable or an event in which they had no interest. Know they not, or believe they not what the gospel relates of Christ’s passion? Indeed they know it, and believe it, but do not think of it. It is impossible that he who believes and meditates, should fail, to become burning with love for God who suffers and dies for love of him.”
But why, we may ask here, are there so many who draw so little benefit even from the contemplation of the passion and death of Jesus? Because they fail to consider and imitate the example which Christ gives in His sufferings.
“The cross of Christ,” says St. Augustine, “is not only a bed of death, but a pulpit of instruction.” It is not only a bed upon which Christ dies, but the pulpit from which He teaches us what we must do. It should now be our special aim to meditate upon the passion of Christ, and to imitate those virtues which shone forth so preeminently in His passion and death. But many neglect to do this: They usually content themselves with compassion when they see Christ enduring such great pains, but they see not with what love, humility, and meekness He bears them; and so do not endeavor to imitate His example. That you, O Christian soul, may avoid this mistake, and that you may draw the greatest possible benefit for your soul, from the contemplation of the passion, and death of Christ, attend to that which is said of it by that pious servant of God, Alphonse Rodriguez:
We must endeavor to derive from the meditation on the mysteries of the passion and death of Christ this effect, that we may imitate His virtues, and this by slowly and attentively considering each virtue by itself, exercising ourselves in forming a very great desire for it in our hearts, making a firm resolution to practice it in words and works, and also to conceive a holy aversion and horror of the opposite vice; for instance, when contemplating Christ’s condemnation to the death of the cross by Pilate, consider the humility of Jesus Christ, who being God, as humble as He was innocent, voluntarily submitted and silently accepted the unjust sentence and the ignominious death. Here you see from the example given by Jesus, how you should despise yourself, patiently bear all evil, unjust judgment; and detraction, and even seek them with joy as giving you occasion to resemble Him. To produce these necessary effects and resolutions, you should at each mystery contemplate the following particulars:
- First, Who is it that suffers? The most innocent, the holiest, the most loving; the only-begotten Son of the Almighty Father, the Lord of heaven and earth.
- Secondly; What pains and torments, exterior and interior, does He suffer?
- Thirdly, In what manner does He suffer, with what patience, humility, meekness and love, does He bear all ignominy and outrage?
- Fourthly, For whom does He suffer? For all men, for His enemies and His executioners.
- Fifthly, By whom does He suffer? By Jews and heathens, by soldiers and tyrants, by the devil and all impious children of the world to the end of time, and all who were then united in spirit with His enemies.
- Sixthly, Why does He suffer? To make reparation for all the sins of the whole world, to satisfy the justice of God, to reconcile the Heavenly Father, to open heaven, to give us His infinite ‘merits that we may from them have strength to follow the way to heaven.
At the consideration of each of these points, and indeed at each mystery of the passion of Christ, the imitation of the example of His virtues is the main object, because the true life of the Christian consists in the imitation of Jesus. In considering each stage of the passion of Christ place vividly before your mind the virtue which He practiced therein; contemplate it and ask yourself whether you possess this virtue, or whether you still cherish the opposite vice. If you find the latter to be the case make an act of contrition, with the firm resolution to extirpate this vice, and excite in yourself a sincere desire for the opposite virtue. In this way you will draw the greatest advantage from the contemplation of Christ’s passion, and will resemble Christ, and, as the pious Louis of Granada says, there can be no greater honor and adornment for a Christian than to resemble his divine Master, not in the way that Lucifer desired, but in that which He pointed out, when He said: “I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so do you also.”