Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus at Calvary, is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday. It is called ‘good’ in the sense “pious, holy”; The Oxford English Dictionary also gives other examples with the sense “of a day or season observed as holy by the church” as an archaic sense of good. This holy day, which is a day of mandatory fasting and abstinence, is observed with the greatest solemnity.
St. Luke’s observance of Good Friday (April 19th) will take place at Immaculate Conception at noon, the hour that Christ was lifted onto the Cross. We hope that parishioners and friends of St. Luke’s, especially those working downtown, will make an effort to be present with us that day.
The commemoration of our Lord’s Passion and Death are of great antiquity. The Pilgrimage of Egeria, one of our oldest sources of Christian practice in the Holy Land in the 4th century, recounts that on the Friday of Holy Week there were many services, and in particular before midday there took place the veneration of the great relic of the True Cross, as also of the title which had been fastened to it; while for three hours after midday another crowded service was held in commemoration of the Passion of Christ. It seems probable that throughout the Christian world some sort of observance of Holy Week by fasting and prayer had been adopted almost everywhere by Christians well before the end of the fourth century. Indeed it is quite possible that the fast of special severity is considerably older, for Dionysius of Alexandria (c. A.D. 260) speaks of some who went without food for the whole six days.
As in all Catholic churches, St. Luke’s observes Good Friday with starkness and drama befitting the most solemn day of the Christian year. The liturgy for this day begins with the priest going to the altar in silence and prostrating himself in reverence. The act of prostration signifies “both the abasement of the earthly man, and also the grief and sorrow of the Church,” according to a document from the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Another striking feature of the liturgy is the Veneration of the Cross, a practice that originated in the fourth century in Jerusalem, where a fragment believed to be of the True Cross was venerated. The practice was adopted in Rome in the seventh century. A crucifix is progressively unveiled with the words “Behold the Wood of the Cross” sung or said by the priest each time a portion of the cross is revealed. Then the priest and people kneel and kiss the feet of the Corpus.
Good Friday is the one day of the year when the Church does not celebrate the Mass (Anointing of the Sick and Penance are the only sacraments celebrated this day), but Holy Communion, which has been pre-sanctified, is distributed to the faithful. All Catholics should do something on Good Friday to recall Christ’s sacrifice for us.
We especially urge families with young children to come and bring their children because these solemn words and liturgical actions, heard and seen early in life, remain with us always and remind us that the Church is our home, and a very beautiful one at that.