Good Friday

"The Cross of Christ is not only a bed of death, but a pulpit of instruction." -- Saint Augustine

This day is called Good because the Church keeps a solemn memorial of the infinite mercy and goodness which God showed to man in the death of His beloved Son. Our Saviour's 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 all might be saved. Although this is a subject of joy to every Christian, still, we know that our joy cannot be pleasing to God unless we endeavour to participate in the merits of the Passion and Death of Christ by sorrow for out sins, by amendment and penance. Hence the touching ceremonies of today.

When we enter the church in, the morning, we notice that the altars and sanctuary are bare. No candles are lighted, and the priest lies pros- trate in front of the altar. After a few minutes he rises, and reads various lessons which are preparatory to the Passion as given by St. John.

Then, in imitation of her Spouse praying for His enemies when fastened to the Cross, the Church requires him to pray for all mankind - the Pope, the clergy, the faithful, and even for Jews and pagans.

Immediately after, divesting himself of the principal vestment, he takes the veiled cross in his hands and uncovers it by degrees, saying at the same time: "Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world." Then, placing the Cross on one of the altar steps, he takes off his shoes, and genuflecting on both knees three times, he kisses the figure. The faithful approach and do the same. At the conclusion the candles, are lighted, the Blessed Sacrament is brought back from the Altar of Repose, and the Mass of the Presanctified commences. When the Sacred Host is brought back to the altar, the priest incenses it and proceeds somewhat as usual till he reverently receives It, after which he immediately leaves the sanctuary, and the altars are again stripped.

In the afternoon the Stations of the Cross are generally gone through. Those who cannot attend ought to, make them privately, as the benefit to the soul from meditating on our Saviour's sufferings is very great, apart from the large number of indulgences attached to the pious exercise.

Another excellent practice is to take the crucifix in our hands, and to consider with pious affection the sufferings of the, different members of His Sacred Body. Kiss the crown of thorns, and beg of our Lord, through the sufferings He endured by this cruel torture, to aid you by His grace never to yield to, bad thoughts of any kind. Kiss His hands pierced with nails, and beg Him to bless, your hands, so that they may always be employed honestly and piously, and never be the instruments of sin. Kiss His feet, and ask Him for, grace never to walk in the way of perdition. These will suggest other pious affections which will do much to increase our love for our Lord and horror for all that offends Him.

"Have we no tears to shed for Him,
While soldiers scoff and Jews deride?
Ah! look how patiently He hangs:
Jesus, our Love, is crucified."

Example -- Saint John Gualbert

This Saint was not in his early years animated with truly Christian principles. His father had a mortal hatred for another gentleman who had murdered his cousin. He enlisted John's sympathy in his passion and projects of revenge. One, day, as our future Saint was returning to Florence revolving in his mind various plans to bring about the death of the murderer. It happened that he met him at the turn of a narrow passage, and so suddenly that it was impossible for him to escape. Gualbert drew his sword, and was about to plunge it into the breast of his enemy, who happened to be unarmed at the time. When the latter, descending from his horse, threw himself on his knees, and with his arms extended in the form of a cross, implored him to pardon him for the love of Jesus crucified. John was moved by the prayer. At the mention of Jesus Christ he remembered how our Lord, when fastened to the Cross, had pardoned and, prayed for His enemies. Putting back his sword into the scabbard, the now changed man extended his hand and pardoned his enemy from the bottom of his heart. Afterwards continuing his journey, he made a visit to the church of the Abbey of San Miniato, where he found his heart so inflamed with the love of God and the desire for heavenly things that he renounced the world, and immediately asked admission to the abbey, where, his request being granted, he received the habit of St. Benedict, and later on became one of the glories of the Church.

Taken from Catholic Life (pages 47-50), available from The Neumann Press.