As a priest, I find the Good Friday liturgy to be one of the most moving experiences I celebrate. First of all, it is the one day of the year that I am not permitted to celebrate the Mass. Instead, we participate in the liturgy of the pre-sanctified. The Eucharist was consecrated on Holy Thursday evening and on Good Friday, the Body of Christ is consumed within the context of an extended liturgy of the word. Secondly, the liturgy has some very poignant moments from the readings to the veneration of the cross to the celebration of the pre-sanctified. Thirdly, I am struck as to how peaceful the liturgy is: devoid of music save chant and simple melodies (or at least should be), lots of silent reflection, and the powerful entrance rite with the prostration.
The three parts of the liturgy invite us to focus on our relationship with God and with others. In the liturgy of the word, we hear once again the Passion account. I encourage you to read the account prior to celebrating Good Friday. With which of the characters do you identify? Pilate? Peter? One of the thieves? Joseph of Arimathea? The women? The Beloved Disciple? And the list goes on. Put yourself at the crucifixion. How do you react?
The intercessions expand outward: we pray for the Church at the beginning and gradually widen our prayer circle, praying for those who are not Catholic, those who are not Christian and those who do not believe in God. The scope of the intercessions invite us to broaden our own pray perspectives, not just praying for those whom we know or love, but praying for those who persecute or hate us.
The second part of the liturgy calls us to venerate the instrument of our salvation. “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore.” We recognize that this instrument of torture and death has become a sign and symbol of God’s intense love for humanity: God so loved the world that he sent his only son to be its savior. Our redemption entailed God becoming so completely one of us that he died in order that we might have life eternal. It is fitting therefore, that we give adoration to the cross.
Having heard the word and adored the cross, we partake of the bread of life. The Eucharist, which is the source and summit of the Christian life, is eaten simply. The food for the journey beckons us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus who experienced the human life accompanies us on our journey toward salvation.
If you are able to spend part of the day in quiet adoration and prayer, reflect on the cross, pray the stations, picture yourself present at the crucifixion. Be open to the Spirit inviting you to immerse yourself in the mystery of the cross.