Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion
Liturgical Color: Red
“Let him be crucified!” But he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Let him be crucified!” ~Matthew 27:22–23
Perhaps one of the most surprising practices on Good Friday is that the Mass is not celebrated. Instead, Jesus’ saving Sacrifice is commemorated by the full reading of the Passion account, the veneration of the Cross, and the distribution of Holy Communion that was consecrated the day before. Why wouldn’t we celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass on Good Friday? Saint Thomas Aquinas gives a profound answer to this question in his masterful work, Summa Theologica (See III.83). In part, he says the following:
Reply to Objection 2. The figure ceases on the advent of the reality. But this sacrament is a figure and a representation of our Lord’s Passion, as stated above. And therefore on the day on which our Lord’s Passion is recalled as it was really accomplished, this sacrament is not consecrated.
A careful reading of that passage, as well as the rest of that article, tells us that there is great power in the Liturgical Year, and in our annual Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. We celebrate Mass daily throughout the year, except on Good Friday, so that we can receive the fruit of the Passion every day. The Church teaches that Mass is an efficacious sign, meaning that the Mass both signifies Christ’s sacrifice and actually makes it present. But on Good Friday, we celebrate our Lord’s Passion in the reality of time. Therefore, in terms of grace, nothing is lost by the absence of Mass on Good Friday. Instead, we must understand that the day of Good Friday itself becomes a powerful instrument of grace. Our liturgical Commemoration of our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday enables us to share in His saving act of redemption, just as the Mass does every other day of the year.
Setting aside the profound depth of theology present in this teaching, what does this mean, practically, for those who participate in the Good Friday Liturgy today? Here are a few thoughts for pondering.
As you prayerfully participate in the Liturgical Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, know that this day itself is endowed with grace and power. The grace does not come through the sacramental “Memorial” of the Lord’s Passion but from the reality encountered in this once-a-year Commemoration. This day itself is a real and sanctifying participation in the fruit of Jesus’ saving Sacrifice.
To better understand this, look into your own soul and consider any ways that you have experienced God’s grace powerfully and uniquely on Good Friday. Perhaps, in years past, you entered into the Triduum in a prayerful and recollected way. Call that experience to mind, and understand that this deep encounter with our Lord was especially made possible because those days are holy.
Today, as you celebrate Good Friday, understand that the floodgates of Heaven are opened to you in a way unlike any other day of the year. Seize this moment in time. Seize this once-a-year opportunity to enter into our Lord’s suffering and death. Do so prayerfully, meditatively, truly, and intentionally. Especially honor the hours between noon and three o’clock. Try to set that time aside for nothing other than prayer and recollection. This day is sanctified. Time is sanctified. By entering into prayer during these hours of sanctified time, you will discover that God is especially present to you.
Read the Passion. Pray the Stations of the Cross. Recite the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. Gaze at a crucifix. Fast, keep vigil, be attentive, and be open to the abundance of grace our Lord wishes to bestow upon you this Good Friday, especially by participating in the liturgical Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion during the sacred hours when our Lord hung on the Cross. Today, “the figure ceases on the advent of the reality.” Today, the reality is here, captured in time, made present to you. Stand before His sacred Cross, and allow His mercy to pour forth upon you from His wounded side.
My suffering and sacrificial Lord, You have sanctified this day and endowed it with grace. As I commemorate Your saving sacrifice, draw me into this mystical act of love. Help me to remain prayerful and recollected throughout this day and into tomorrow. Invite me to stand before Your Cross and to gaze upon Your beaten and torn body. As I do, pour forth the abundance of Your mercy flowing from Your wounded side. Jesus, I trust in You.
Featured image: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Further Reading & Prayers:
Novena in preparation for Divine Mercy Sunday (First day of novena)
Rosary – Sorrowful Mysteries (with Scripture)