Praying with Good Friday at Home
The Good Friday Liturgy is not a Mass. We don't celebrate the Eucharist on Good Friday. We gather for a liturgy with a number of parts. We begin with a silent ritual, in which the priest and deacon lay face down on the floor in silence. Then, we have an Opening Prayer. The Liturgy of the Word includes the proclamation of the Passion from John's Gospel. Following the Gospel and homily, we pray the General Intercessions - one of the oldest prayers in the Church. The Veneration of the Cross is done with all the people, followed by a reception of the Eucharist, from the Eucharist which was consecrated and reserved from Holy Thursday's Mass. Finally, after the Prayer After Communion, we depart in silence and the altar and sanctuary are stripped until the celebration of the Easter Vigil Saturday evening. A full account of this liturgy can be found on our page, Preparing for Good Friday, including all the readings and prayers.
During this time of social distancing, we won't be able to celebrate this liturgy in person - though celebrating it on TV or online will be wonderful. We will miss the opportunity to venerate the cross and to receive the Eucharist. Just as we did for Holy Thursday, we can pray with the veneration of the cross at home.
This will involve our using our imaginations to enter into this Good Friday very personally. Praying the Stations of the Cross can help us get there. In the end, our desire and goal is to place ourselves at the foot of the cross on that day when our Savior hung there for our salvation.
We might pray with the beautiful hymn written by Dan Schutte: Behold the Wood of the Cross. We might use anything, perhaps a beloved crucifix in our home, which will help us arrive there at the foot of that cross, that day.
We behold the wood of that cross and we are moved to venerate it. There, on that cross, on that altar, on that instrument of our Savior's death, is the crucified one, Jesus, our Lord. He paid the price of our sin, for us all. Paul says, "For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him." [2 Corinthians 5:21] God dealt with our sin and death by nailing it to this cross. [Colosians 2:14}]
I can let imaging him nailed to the cross, seeing the wounds of his unjust torture and execution, seeing Mary, John and Mary of Magdala there, and listening to the mockery, fill my heart with emotion for this one who has become my friend and daily companion on my life journey. I say what spontaneously comes to my heart. I let myself experience his death. I can rest there in that moment. This is no ordinary death, but it enters into solidarity with every single death. I let myself experience the emotion associated with this death being for me. I let deep gratitude well up within me.
Then, I step up and embrace that cross. I throw my arms around it and feel its roughness against me, but I hold on to it all the more tightly, and I let myself say "thank you." I let myself venerate that cross, as I have never venerated it before. I kiss it and know that this cross is the sign of the mystery of Jesus' love and mercy for me, and the sign of his victory over sin and death - my sin, all sin; my death, all death.
The refrain of the Stations echos in my ears. "We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world." I compose myself and say that, in my own words, deeply.
Then, I can step back and imagine all my brothers and sisters - in my family, my parish community, my friends and neighbors, the people in my country and the people around the world - standing there at the foot of that cross together. All our sin is forgiven there. All death is offered eternal life. This death made us one in him, now and for all eternity. At this special time of tremendous suffering and fear and death, I let myself let his death on this cross redeem the world around me.
I can let this experience wash over me, over and over again, in the day ahead, as I long to celebrate the Resurrection. As I let this saving grace sink in, I grow in freedom and peace, in the midst of all that tempts me to discouragement and fear.
I can pray like this alone, myself, on Good Friday. I can encourage others in my family, or dear friends from whom I am separated, to do it on their own. I can also adapt this so that my family can make this time of prayer together. Childern have great imaginations. We can guide them to express gratitude and love for Jesus and what it means to venerate the cross, on this very special day we call "Good."
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