The brief liturgical season of the Sacred Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord that began with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday continues with the celebration of the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord (Celebratio Passionis Domini) on Good Friday. The Sacred Paschal Triduum (Sacrum Triduum Paschale), also called the Easter Triduum, “celebrates the Paschal Mystery and so is the culmination of the entire Liturgical Year” (Rev. Jovian P. Lang, OFM, Dictionary of the Liturgy (1989), p. 566).
The Friday before Easter is officially called the Friday of the Passion of the Lord but is popularly referred to as “Good Friday”.
“We call ‘good’ this day when Our Lord loved us and gave himself up for us, redeeming us from sin and death. Thus, while the liturgical rites of the day are austere, they are marked by the triumphant sign of Christ’s Cross, and they glow with the color of his Precious Blood. The crowds who gather for the Good Friday liturgy are not only assistants at the Passion, expressing the human emotion of grief and mourning, but Christian men and women whose gift of faith in the one Redeemer and Savior gives them confidence and hope. The death of the Lord Jesus breaks open the Mystery of the Trinity; the God who is Love is revealed in the language and terms of a fallen world, that is, through rejection, pain, and suffering. But at the heart of the Passion is the divine paradox: Death itself is put to death on this day which we call ‘good’” (Bishop Peter J. Elliott, Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year (2002), n. 218 / p. 111).
The Sacred Paschal Triduum continues on Good Friday not with Mass, which is forbidden on this day and on Holy Saturday, but with the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. This special liturgy is composed of three parts: (1) the Liturgy of the Word, (2) the Adoration of the Holy Cross, (3) and Holy Communion, which can only be given outside of the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord to the sick or as Viaticum. On Holy Saturday, Holy Communion may only be given as Viaticum.
According to The Roman Missal, Third Edition, the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord should take place in the afternoon, “about three o’clock (unless a later hour is chosen for a pastoral reason)”. Wearing red vestments “as for Mass”, the clergy “go to the altar in silence and, after making a reverence to the altar, prostrate themselves… and pray in silence for a while”. Everyone else kneels. The celebrant then proceeds to the chair and without saying the customary “Let us pray”, he prays the collect.
The Liturgy of the Word then begins with a reading about the Suffering Servant from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (52:13—53:12), followed by Psalm 31 with its response “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). The Second Reading is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews (4: 14-16; 5: 7-9), followed by the chant before the Gospel: “Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name” (Philippians 2:8-9). Then the solemn proclamation of the narrative of the Lord’s Passion according to Saint John (18:1—19:42) is read, followed by a brief homily and an optional moment of silent prayer.
The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Solemn Intercessions. These include prayers for the Church, for the Pope, for all orders and degrees of the faithful (Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and “the whole of the faithful people”), for catechumens, for the unity of Christians, for the Jewish people, for those who do not believe in Christ, for those who do not believe in God, for those in public office, and for those in tribulation.
The Adoration of the Holy Cross begins with the third liturgical procession in a series of processions that are central to the celebration of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum. The first procession occurs on Palm Sunday, followed by the second procession on Good Friday with the Holy Cross, and the third procession occurs with the Paschal Candle during the Easter Vigil.
During this second procession called the Ostensio sanctæ Crucis (Showing of the Cross), the Celebrant will chant “Ecce lignum Crucis, in quo salus mundi pepéndit [Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the salvation of the world]”. All respond, singing “Vénite, adorémus [Come, let us adore]”. This will occur three times. After the clergy and ministers adore the Holy Cross, the congregation will be invited to do so as well. Adoration may be expressed by genuflecting and kissing or touching “the wood of the Cross, on which is hung our salvation”.
After this, the Cross is carried by the Deacon or a minister to its place at the altar, and the lighted candles are placed around or on the altar or near the Cross in preparation for Holy Communion. The bare altar is prepared while the Deacon (or Celebrant) puts on a humeral veil and retrieves the Blessed Sacrament from the “Place of Reposition” or “Altar of Repose”. Holy Communion is then distributed following the saying or singing of the Lord’s Prayer.
After the distribution of Holy Communion, the ciborium is taken by the Deacon or instituted acolyte to a place prepared in the sacristy. After a period of silence, the Celebrant then says the Prayer after Communion followed by the Prayer over the People. All then genuflect to the Cross and depart in silence. After the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, the altar is stripped, but the Cross remains on the altar with two or four candlesticks.
“This painful and grim phase of the Easter Mystery can only be understood in conjunction with the total celebration of the Sacred Triduum, which includes the victory through Resurrection” (Rev. Jovian P. Lang, OFM, Dictionary of the Liturgy (1989), p. 231).
The third and final day Sacred Paschal Triduum, will continue with the celebration of the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night and conclude with the celebration of the evening prayer of Vespers on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection.
“Surely He has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed Him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).