Friday, April 09, 2004

Good Friday




As it seems I always do, the first reference made here to Good Friday is from the old Catholic Encyclopaedia. The time it takes to load will repay the wait. (Even the Google cache was taking a while today.)

There is, perhaps, no office in the whole liturgy so peculiar, so interesting, so composite, so dramatic as the office and ceremonial of Good Friday. Or so it was. Not any longer, unless you have access to the traditional Rite in your area. The reformed Good Friday liturgy is, in the words of Fr. Groeschel - not known for his traditionalist sympathies - "a disaster". In my experience, it consists almost entirely of being read to from bad translations by lay people with no elocution training. YMMV, as they say in email, and I hope it does.

(But I shall be at it anyway, "offering it up" as my grandmother used to exhort me when I didn't like something.)

The priests at our parish have been hearing confessions since 8:00 a.m. this morning (unless Morning Prayer ended earlier) and will be doing so in relays (we have 5 priests) throughout the day until after the last liturgical service. The Stations of the Cross begin at 3:00 p.m. After the Stations, the "liturgical service" for Good Friday, and after that the Divine Mercy novena begins at 5:30. Then at 6:30 they do it all again, this time in Spanish. The devotion of our priests makes so many things a blessing that would otherwise be close to intolerable.

From the CE on the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday:

As a liturgical function the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday must no doubt be traced back, as Amalarius already in the ninth century correctly divined, to the practice of honouring the relic of the True Cross at Jerusalem which is described in detail in the "Pilgrimage of Etheria", c. 380. The ceremony came to prevail everywhere where relics of the True Cross existed, and by a very natural development, where relics failed any ordinary cross supplied their place as an object of cultus. As Amalarius again sensibly remarks, "although every church cannot have such a relic, still the virtue of the Holy True Cross is not wanting in those crosses which are made in imitation of it." Neither was this veneration, in the case at any rate, of relics of the True Cross, confined to Good Friday. St. Gregory of Tours uses language which may possibly imply that in Jerusalem the True Cross was honoured every Wednesday and Friday. It is certain that at Constantinople a Sunday in Mid-Lent, the first of August, and the 14th of September were similarly privileged.

Even from early times there was no hesitation about using the word adoratio. Thus, St. Paulinus of Nola, writing of the great Jerusalem relic (c. 410), declares that the bishop offered it to the people for worship (crucem quotannis adorandam populo promit), and first adored it himself. (See P. L., LXI, 325.)

A curious practice was also introduced of anointing the cross, or, on occasion, any image or picture, with balm (balsamo) before presenting it for the veneration of the faithful. This custom was transferred to Rome, and we hear much of it in connection with the very ancient reliquary of the True Cross and also the supposed miraculous portrait of Our Saviour (acheiropoieta, i. e. not made by the hand of man) preserved in the Sancta Sanctorum of the Lateran, both of which recently, together with a multitude of other objects, have been examined and reported on by papal permission (see Grisar Die r?mische Kapelle Sancta Sanctorum und ihr Schatz, Fre?burg, 1908, 91, 92). The objects mentioned were completely covered in part with solidified balm. Pope Adrian I, in vindicating the veneration of images to Charlemagne, mentions this use of balm and defends it (Mansi, Concilia, XIII, 778).

The ceremony of the adoration of the Cross on Good Friday must have spread through the West in the seventh and eighth centuries, for it appears in the Gelasian Sacramentary and is presupposed in the Gregorian Antiphonarium. Both in Anglo-Saxon England and in the England of the later Middle Ages the "Creeping to the Cross" was a ceremony which made a deep impression on the popular mind. St. Louis of France: and other pious princes dressed themselves in haircloth and crept to the cross barefoot. At present, instead of creeping to the cross on hands and knees, three profound double genuflexions are made before kissing the feet of the crucifix, and the sacred ministers remove their shoes when performing the ceremony. The collection now commonly made on this occasion for the support of the Holy Places seems also to date from medieval times.


If you don't have a text for the Stations of the Cross, you can find the traditional ones composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori at Recta Ratio. Begin here and scroll up to take them in order. And don't pass up the links to the illustrations of each station.

I haven't found a site giving the text of the "Liturgical Service" for Good Friday either old or new. But the old tenebrae services used to be found here, although it seems to be down at the moment. Maybe you will be lucky later on in the day. Universalis is still an excellent site for finding a version (if not "the" version) of the Pauline rite Office of Readings which has replaced Tenebrae.