INSTRUCTION ON GOOD FRIDAY
The Church’s Year
By Rev. Fr. Leonard Goffine
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 to 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 Saviour 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 Saviour’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 Saviour 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 VI, 1-6.) and the other from Exodus, (Exod. XII. 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. Continue reading