The Station is at the basilica which in Rome represents Jerusalem whose name it bears. It is consecrated to our Redeemer's Passion and contains earth from Calvary, some important fragments of the true cross, and one of the nails used in the crucifixion of our Lord.
On this day, the anniversary of our Saviour's death, the Church gives her temples an appearance of desolation, and clothes her ministers in the garb of mourning.
THE MASS OF THE CATECHUMENS
The first part of to-day's liturgy recalls the gatherings that took place in the synagogues on the Sabbath Day. The first Christian communities, composed as they were of convert Jews, took these assemblies as their model, at the same time subjecting them to necessary modifications, especially by early associating them with the liturgy of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is in the Mass of the Catechumens that these are told that the mercies of God are soon to descend on the Christian people, just as chastisement will fall on the faithless nations Ephraim and Juda; for at the very moment when the multitude of the children of Israel will be offering the Paschal Lamb (second Lesson), the Jews will be putting to death the Lamb of God on the Cross. This death is described for us in the story of our Lord's Passion according to St. John.
None having been said in choir, the celebrant and the sacred ministers, in black vestments and without lights or incense, come before the altar where they prostrate themselves and pray for some moments. Meanwhile, the acolytes spread a single altar cloth upon the altar. The celebrant and ministers having finished praying, go up the steps to the altar which the celebrant kisses, as usual, in the middle, afterwards going to the Epistle side.
After this a reader, in the place where the Epistle is read, lessons are sung in the tone of the prophecies, from the books of Osee and Exodus.
Thus saith the Lord: In their affliction they will rise early to Me: Come, and let us return to the Lord: for He hath taken us, and He will heal us: He will strike, and He will cure us. He will revive us after two days: on the third day He will raise us up and we shall live in His sight. We shall know and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord. His going forth is prepared as the morning light and He will come to us as the early and the latter rain to the earth. What shall I do to thee, O Ephraim? What shall I do to thee, O Juda? Your mercy is as a morning cloud and as the dew that goeth away in the morning. For this reason have I hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgements shall go forth as the light. For I desired mercy and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts.
This is followed by the singing of the account of the Passion according to St John. (John 18:1-40; 19:1-42)
The drama of the Passion is universal and in one sense will end only with the world itself, for all men, by their sins, have taken a share in the death of Christ. Jesus was bound to triumph through those very atoning sufferings by which He became the Victim of every passion which shall agitate the human race until the end of the world. For He has atoned for the pride of those who share that hatred of truth which turned the Jews into murderers; the avarice of those who are possessed by the demon of greed which drove Judas to sell his master; the lust of all who indulge in sensual delights like Herod, who mocked Jesus and sent him back to Pilate; the cruelty of those who love to cause suffering like the soldiers, who struck our Lord and insulted Him; and the cowardice of all who leave the path of duty like the Apostles, who forsook Him to whom they owed everything.
Our Lord's Passion is the whole of humanity, hurling itself upon its divine healer and yet cured by Him; yet also it is the anointed of God, the King of Martyrs, who in face of all the generations who persecute Him and before the whole world offers to His Father a supreme token of submission, that of blood itself.
Christ on the Cross! What a model of death to all our sins, of resistance to every temptation, of warfare against all evildoers, and of the testimony which we in our turn ought to render to God, even, if necessary, at the cost of our very life.
The priest then, standing at the Epistle side of the altar, with hands joined, proceeds at once with the following prayers.
THE SOLEMN PRAYERS
said before the Offertory. [In the Eastern Churches this part of the liturgy recurred daily and was called "The Mass of the Penitents". In the Western Church it was suppressed and the penitents were not dismissed until the Communion.]
These liturgical prayers show us that the effects of our Lord's death extend to all necessities of the Church and of the human race. They even foresee the conversion of the deicide race who will one day recognize that Jesus is the Messias.
Prayer for the Church
Let us pray, dearly beloved, for the holy Church of God: that our God and Lord may be pleased to give it peace, keep its unity and preserve it throughout the world: subjecting to it principalities and powers; and may He grant us, while we live in peace and tranquillity, grace to glorify God the Father almighty.
Let us pray.
Let us kneel. R. Arise.
Almighty and eternal God, who in Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, spread over all the world, may persevere with a steadfast faith in the confession of Thy name. Through the same our Lord.
THE ADORATION OF THE CROSS
This ceremony owes its origin to a custom which prevailed at Jerusalem in the fourth century, of venerating on this day the wood of the true Cross. Meanwhile the Improperia, or tender reproaches of Christ to His people, to whom He had done nothing but good, were sung in Greek, which language was still partly in use in the Mass of every day.
When the prayers are finished the celebrant takes off the chasuble. Then turning towards the people, standing on the Epistle side (near the back-corner of the altar-table, or if more convenient, below the steps), he unveils the upper part of the cross and sings the words:
Ecce lignum Crucis,
Behold the wood of the Cross,
The ministers continue with the celebrant:
in quo salus mundi pependit.
on which hung the Saviour of the world.
The choir reply, while all except the celebrant kneel:
Let us adore.
Then the celebrant goes to the front-corner of the altar at the Epistle side above the steps, uncovers the right arm of the cross and the head of the figure of our Lord again singing on a higher note Ecce lignum, etc. All kneel while the response is made as before.
Finally the celebrant reaches the middle of the altar and uncovers the whole cross which he holds up, repeating Ecce lignum for a third time on a still higher note. All again adore while the response is made. Then the celebrant carries the cross to the place prepared for it before the altar, kneels and place it there. Then he removes his shoes and goes to adore the cross. He prostrates himself three times and finally bends and kisses the feet of the crucifix. This done he returns to his seat and puts on his shoes and the chasuble. Immediately after him the ministers and the other clergy, followed by the faithful, two and two, go up, prostrate themselves, and adore as above.
While the adoration is taking place, the Reproaches are sung, according to the number of those taking part in the adoration. Meanwhile, the priest seated, reads them with his ministers.
Popule meus, quid fecit tibi? aut in quo contristavi te? Responde mihi!
My people, what have I done to thee? Or in what have I grieved thee? Answer me!
Quia eduxi te de terra Aegypti: parasti Crucem Salvatori tuo.
Because I brought thee out of the land of Egypt: thou hast prepared a cross for thy Saviour.
Agios o theos. Sanctus Deus.
Agios ischyros. Sanctus fortis.
Agios athanatos, eleison imas. Sanctus immortalis, miserere nobis.
O Holy God.
Holy and Strong.
Holy and Immortal, have mercy on us.
The following Antiphon is then sung:
Crucem tuam * adoramus, Domine: et sanctam resurrectionem tuam laudamus, et glorificamus: ecce enim propter lignum venit gaudium in universo mundo.
Ps. lxvi. 2. Deus misereatur nostri, et benedicat nobis: illuminet vultum suum super nos, et misereatur nostri. Crucem.
We adore Thy Cross, O Lord : and we praise and glorify Thy holy resurrection: for behold by the wood of the Cross joy came into the whole world.
Ps. May God have mercy on us, and bless us: may He cause the light of His countenance to shine upon us, and have mercy on us. We adore.
The Crux fidelis is then sung, the first and second part of it in turn following each verse of the Pange lingua.
Crux fidelis, inter omnes
Arbor una nobilis:
Nulla silva talem profert,
Fronde, flore, germine.
* Dulce lignum, dulces clavos,
Dulce pondus sustinet.
Faithful Cross, O tree all beauteous, Tree all peerless and divine: Not a grove on earth can show us Such a leaf and flower as thine. * Sweet the nails and sweet the wood. Laden with so sweet a load.
MASS OF THE PRESANCTIFIED
Good Friday being the anniversary of our Lord's death, there stands out before the whole world, the blood-stained throne of the Cross from which the God-Man reigns. The Church does not celebrate the Holy Mass which is the memorial of that of the Cross; she contents herself with consuming the sacred species previously consecrated: which, in the Greek rite is the daily practice during Lent, except on Saturdays and Sundays. From this comes the name Mass of the Presanctified, since the offerings are sanctified (consecrated) before.
Towards the end of the Adoration of the Cross the candles are lighted on the altar, and the deacon taking the burse, spreads the corporal in the usual way, placing the purificator near it. When the adoration is finished, he takes the cross reverently and replaces it on the altar. The procession is then formed to go to the altar where the Blessed Sacrament has reposed since the day before. At the altar of repose, candles are lighted and remain so until after the Communion. The deacon takes the chalice from the tabernacle and hands it to the celebrant. The procession then forms in the same order as before. During the procession the hymn
Vexilla Regis is sung.
At the altar the celebrant puts the consecrated Host on the paten and at once places the Host on the corporal. Meanwhile the deacon pours wine into the chalice, and the subdeacon water which is not blessed, nor is the usual prayer said, the celebrant placing the chalice on the altar, in silence. He puts incense in the thurible without blessing it, incenses the offerings and the altar as usual, saying the prayers: Incensum, Dirigatur, Accendat.
Then standing below the steps, on the Epistle side, he washes his hands without saying the Lavabo. Returning to the middle of the altar, he bows down with joined hands and says:
In spiritu humilitatis, et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te, Domine: et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ut placeat tibi, Domine Deus.
Accept us, O Lord, in the spirit of humility and with a contrite heart: and may our sacrifice be so performed this day in Thy sight, that it may be pleasing to Thee, O Lord God.
Then turning towards the people, but from the Gospel side of the altar, and without completing the circle, he says as usual:
Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum Patrem omnipotentem.
Brethren, pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty.
At once, he sings the Pater noster, and having said Amen silently, says the Libera nos aloud. He genuflects, and placing the paten under the Sacred Host, he elevates it that it may be seen by those present; he then divides the Host into three parts, dropping the last of these into the chalice, in silence. He does not say the
Pax Domini or Agnus Dei and the Pax is not given.
Omitting the first two of the prayers before Communion, the celebrant says the third: Perceptio. Then, having genuflected, he takes the paten on which rests the Lord's Body, and with the greatest humility and deepest reverence, he says as usual Panem caelestem and then thrice, Domine, non sum dignus, then Corpus Domini. He receives the Sacred Host with reverence and immediately afterwards the wine with the fragment of the Host in the chalice. Having washed his fingers, he bows in the middle of the altar with joined hands and says:
Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, pura mente capiamus: et de munere temporali fiat nobis remedium
Grant, O Lord, that what we have taken with our mouth we may receive with a pure heart: and that from a temporal gift it may become to us an everlasting remedy.
The celebrant and ministers then leave the sanctuary, the choir reciting vespers. The altar is stripped without ceremony.
[Note - this is the traditional version of the Good Friday Liturgy, according to the Roman Rite, prior to the reforms introduced in 1955. These reforms make a number of amendments to these texts and ceremonies. Prior to 1955, only the priest communicated. It is now common for the faithful to do so as well.]