Catholic Traditions: Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday

crucifix-207397_640Good Friday is a very solemn day in the Catholic Church. According to tradition, Jesus died on Good Friday at 3 p.m. Most Catholic Churches hold their Good Friday service at this time. Adoration of the Cross is part of this service. In order to understand what happens on Good Friday, it is important to understand Holy Week.

On Holy Thursday, the Triduum begins with an evening Mass. This is the Mass of the Last Supper. After the Mass is over, the Eucharist is taken from the Church and placed at an altar of repose. The door of the tabernacle is left open and the sanctuary candle is removed or at least extinguished. Jesus has left the building. Now of course, not every church has a place outside the church proper for the altar of repose so in many parishes, the host is placed on a side altar. The church is then left open for as many hours as is traditional in the parish so that like Jesus in the Garden, the faithful can keep him company as he awaits what he knows is a horrible death.

On Good Friday, there are no masses said. There are services, Morning Prayer may be recited and the Stations of the Cross may also be prayed. The Service at 3 p.m. is the main service of the day.

There are three parts to this service. The Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross and Communion.

During the Liturgy of the Word you hear the word of the Prophet Isaiah followed by Psalm 30 “Father, I put my life in your hands.” The Second Reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews. The Gospel Reading is the Passion of St John.

This is followed by a short homily and by the General Intercessions. You pray: For the Church, the Pope, the clergy and the laity of the Church, for those preparing for baptism, for unity among Christians, for the Jewish people, for those who do not believe in Christ, for those who do not believe in God, for all in public office and for those in special

Adoration of the Cross, which the Catholic Church refers to as veneration, goes back over fifteen hundred years. September 14th, 324 A.D. is the date attributed to the finding the true cross that Jesus died on by St. Helena, the mother of the emperor Constantine. The Church of the Holy Cross in Rome is built very near the site of her home. Catholic adoration of the cross is a very ancient tradition and has been incorporated into the Good Friday service.

During the Veneration of the Cross, the Cross processes into the church and the faithful process to the front of the church and can kiss the Cross. Sometimes it is a crucifix and sometimes a cross. If it is a crucifix, you usually choose to kiss the wounds on Jesus’ feet. The crucifix is then wiped after each person venerates it. This is a very solemn moment when you recognize the awful sacrifice that Jesus made for you, personally.

Following the Veneration, the Eucharist is brought back into the church for distribution to the faithful. After everyone has received communion, the Eucharist is again taken out of the church. The priest leaves the church but does not process. The faithful then leave the church in complete silence; this is not a day to socialize or to speak at all until you have left the Church.

Those who are present, are encouraged to stay in the church and silently contemplate the passion of Jesus and his death on the cross. Confession may be offered after the service for those who choose to go.

This is a beautiful and very reverent service and if you have never been able to attend, why not make the effort this year. In order to fully appreciate the Resurrection, you need to be part of the suffering and death of Jesus. Come and Adore the Cross, you will be glad you did.

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