As our journey of remembrance brings us to the day of the Crucifixion, we might ask ourselves what can be good about Good Friday? There are many theories but we do not really know the origin. It is unique to English with other cultures referring to it as Suffering Friday, Long Friday or Holy Friday.
Whatever name you choose, the liturgy reminds us that it was the time when Jesus’ human nature was most demonstrated. It is the day He drank the cup He prayed would pass, it is the day He took upon Himself our sins. It is the day he experienced the ultimate human experience…death.
In the liturgy, which is not really a Mass because there is no consecration, we begin with Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52-53) where we are reminded that “it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured”…and that, “upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.”
We are then reminded in Hebrews (4:14ff) that we may seek forgiveness with confidence because “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”
Then we hear of John’s Passion which begins after the Last Supper when Jesus suffers His agony at Gethsemane and betrayal by Judas, the kangaroo court at the home of Caiaphas and His interrogation and scourging by Pilate and finally His handing over by Pilate for crucifixion. John alone tells us that Mary is given to the care of the Beloved Disciple by Jesus, before surrendering His Spirit. Finally he is buriedl by Joseph of Arimathea in his personal tomb.
Following a series of intercessions, the crucifix which has been veiled is gradually uncovered with the Antiphon, “Behold the wood of the cross upon which hung the salvation of the world.” This is followed by adoration of the cross by the people.
After a series of reproaches in which God challenges His people about their multiple rejections of his outreaches to them, the priest retrieves the Eucharist consecrated on Holy Thursday for distribution.
When Communion is over, a short prayer is said and a final blessing given. Then without ceremony, and in silence, the priest and ministers leave the altar. Only the cross, a bare altar and an empty tabernacle remain to remind us of Jesus in the tomb.
No ceremonies of any sort are permitted until the Resurrection is celebrated.
And so, our journey of remembrance pauses in silent reflection on the incomprehensible love that in Paul’s words “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,” but rather “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6,8)