On the night of Holy Thursday, while there is no more singing and there is stillness over the organ piano and musical instruments, the silence and mourning take over the church. On the day of Good Friday, Catholics from all over the world are called to fast. The only day of the year when we should fast and at least be abstaining from meats, according to one’s capabilities. On this day, the Church will celebrate a liturgy in which The Passion of Christ is contemplated. The days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday are a single mystery in three acts.
In each Holy Eucharist, the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Christ is present. This is also celebrated on Holy Thursday’s mass and is continued up until the Resurrection on Easter Vigil. The various mysteries of the Holy Mass unfold over the course of those three days. On Thursday, the institution of the Eucharist and on Friday, the Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. No, we do not want to be like the fleeing disciples, but like Mary and John who were there with Jesus, under the cross. To keep Mary and John close to us, we join them on the liturgy of Good Friday. We always think that Jesus is the good Lord and overlooks our failures, but we must remember that Jesus was also human and had a heart. He rejoices over everyone who is present in him, especially after what He has done for us.
But how does this liturgy work on this afternoon? As mentioned, it is not a Holy Mass, but it has a similar structure. At the beginning, we see the priest dressed in a red chasuble – the color of Christ’s blood, His testimony and at the same time, the color of his His kingdom – laying in the front of the Altar, making it visible to us, in persona Christi, just like Christ does before the Father. In the Holy Scripture, it says, “For this reason, when he came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I do come to do your will, O God.” (cf. Heb 10,5-7). As the priest lies on the ground, he repeats the words that he also said in his ordination, “Adsum, here I am, Father. I have come to do your will.” In a Letter to the Philippians it says, “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (cf. Phil, 2,8). He has come for the forgiveness of our disobedience, especially Adam’s disobedience to the Father, and by his total obedience unto death. All this is symbolized in the act of the priest laying on the ground, who says to the Father, “Behold, I am here to do your will.” This consists of Christ dying on the cross for our sins.
This also applies entirely to the theme of the first reading, in which we hear The Fourth Servant Song, which is worth looking at because is it the strongest prophecy of the whole Old Testament about the suffering of Christ and his Passion. These words apply to no one else but to Christ. It talks about his suffering, “He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye, no beauty to draw us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, knowing pain, like one from whom you turn your face, spurned, and we held him on no esteem. Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted.” (Js 53,2-4). If Christ healed a disease, he just did not do an Abracadabra. In every sickness he healed, he took it upon himself, upon his flesh.
“But he was pierced for our sins. Crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.” (Js 53,4-5). Here comes into the fullness of the word what we call the substitutionary death, of Christ, he takes death upon himself in our place. “For the wages of sin in death.” (Rom 6,23). Christ takes this eternal death upon himself so that we do not have to die eternally. The first letter of Peter says, “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet 2,24). “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 Cor 5,21) Christ today bears all that separates all mankind with his body on the cross and makes full atonement for every sin ever committed, so that we are free - before the Father we stand under the cross as righteous saints - if we accept his death of the cross.
"We had all gone astray like sheep, all following our own way; But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth. Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth. Seized and condemned, he was taken away. Who would have thought any more of his destiny? For he was cut off from the land of the living, struck for the sins of his people." (Is 53,6-8). What about the people from today? Would they care about Jesus dying on the cross? "He was given a grave among the wicked, a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong, nor was deceit found in his mouth" (Isa 53,8-9). It was already foretold. Christ crucified between two thieves. "But it was the Lord’s will to crush him with pain. By making his life as a reparation offering, he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days, and the Lord’s will shall be accomplished through him." (Isa 53,10). The Father's response to His Son’s death is already foreshadowed, the Resurrection from death, which will be celebrated only on Easter Sunday.
Then comes the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews. It states, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For 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. So, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." (Heb 4,14-16) This Cross is presently at the altar. From there flows the love of the Father, of the Son and mercy. The Holy Spirit flows down on us.
The Gospel follows with the story of the Passion of Christ from John’s Gospel. In the Gospel, there is a very important sentence that says, “Behold, the man!” (Jn 19,5). When we see Christ’s suffering, we see what sin has made of the man. He takes this total disfiguration upon himself to make us radiantly beautiful again. Then, something very graceful comes after that. Though the Presentation of the Gifts would be next, it would not take place, but instead the Veneration of the Cross. The faithful will give the cross a small kiss once its unveiled. Most churches will give the option of kissing Christ’s wounds. While the corresponding hymns are sung, we hear Christ saying to us, “My people, my people, what have I done to you. I have brought you out of Egypt. I have done everything for you. What have I done for you that you reward my love like this? Answer me!” Then, as in any liturgy, we receive the Body of Christ or the Eucharist, for which we pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” Even if we do not have Public Mass now, we have the Eucharist. Then, we remain in silence for the devotion of the Veneration of the Cross. ∎