Good Friday puts us face to face with cross

Published: April 18, 2019

"This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world. Come, let us worship."

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On Good Friday we relive Jesus' suffering and death so we never forget God's unconditional love and desire for us to be saved. "He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all." (Isaiah 53:5-6)

We do not celebrate Mass on this day because it is a solemn day of prayer and mourning, which includes fasting and abstinence from meat. The Good Friday service includes the Liturgy of the Word, general intercessions, veneration of the cross and reception of the Eucharist, using consecrated Hosts from the Holy Thursday Mass. Inside the church the altar is plain and bare, the candle in the sanctuary lamp is out and the tabernacle is empty. Jesus is not there.

Listening to what happened to Jesus in the Gospel reading on this day begs the question, what is good about Good Friday? Bishop Anthony B. Taylor asked this question in his 2016 Good Friday homily and gave this answer.

"Humiliated and mocked, completely naked to increase the shame, nailed to increase the pain, lifted high to increase the horror, dehumanized in order to discredit him and undo everything he had set out to accomplish, eliminating not only him but also everything for which he lived and died," the bishop said describing the effort to destroy Jesus and his influence.

"But in this they failed. They could kill him, but they could not eliminate him. Jesus rose victorious from this very tomb on Easter Sunday, but that was not the day the battle was won; it’s just the day we found out. The day Jesus won the battle was Friday, which is why we call that Friday 'Good,'" he explained. "Evil did its very worst but he did his very best and his goodness prevailed, turning the worst Friday ever into the best Friday ever."

The somber and simple nature of the Good Friday liturgy "brings the faithful face to face with the cross, the great scandal and paradox of Christianity," explains Carl E. Olson of Our Sunday Visitor. Key to the liturgy is the veneration of the cross, during which, "each person acknowledges the instrument of Christ's death and publicly demonstrates their willingness to take up their cross and follow Christ, regardless of what trials and sufferings it might involve."

Many parishes offer the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, some of which are live reenactments. Arkansas Catholic lists the parishes hosting these special events.

If unable to attend in person, you are welcome to take part in this devotion online. Reflect on Christ's passion through the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) in Jerusalem, or and the Way of the Cross: Stations and Meditations from Arkansas. To meditate on Mary's grief consider the "Stabat Mater" (the "Mother was Standing"), a 13th-century Catholic hymn about Mary's pain at the foot of her Son's cross.

In addition, the Holy Father is asking Catholics worldwide to give to the Pontifical Good Friday Collection. These donations help preserve the holy shrines for pilgrims and support the pastoral, charitable, educational and social works of Christians in the Holy Land.