Laudetur Jesus Christus! Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Praised be Jesus Christ!
As we continue our Holy Week Catechesis today, I focus on Good Friday. Good Friday will be the most different of all the days. Known as the Mass of the Pre-sanctified, this is the only day of the year in which Mass itself is not celebrated. Thus, it is the “pre-sanctified” host from Holy Thursday used at this Liturgical Service. The East maintained the pre-sanctified liturgies throughout Lent, as they generally do not have the tradition of daily Mass as in the West. However, on Good Friday, the entire Church refrains from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This particular Rite of the Church is one of the most ancient and also predates even the reforms of St. Gregory the Great (around 600 AD).
Perhaps the most challenging change for Good Friday will be that the celebrant alone goes to Holy Communion. Holy Communion was otherwise not permitted for the faithful outside of Viaticum (communion for the dyring). Not even priests who are not the celebrant for the Mass of the Pre-sanctified go to communion. This is because of the great absence and emptiness that the Church feels on Good Friday at the Savior’s death because of our sins. This is also why the Church continues to remain stripped, why the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Altar of Repose and truly hidden away. Because the Savior has offered the ultimate sacrifice for our sins and our salvation, descending into hell to conquer death itself. This is symbolic that the Blessed Virgin lost her son on this day and felt an emptiness that we can only barely imagine. So, while the celebrant receives communion because this remains a sacrifice, albeit not the Sacrifice of the Mass, the rest of the Church unites with the Blessed Virgin. The “communion” of the rest of the Church becomes the veneration of the cross.
The cross is the entire focus of the Mass of the Pre-sanctified. Some parts will undoubtedly be familiar, such as the chanting of the Passion, the great intercessions, the veneration of the cross. Other parts are certainly different, such as communion, the return of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar in almost a triumphant manner, and the appearance that the conclusion of the Mass of the Pre-sanctified is a Mass itself. For example, there is an offertory, an incensation, even an elevation of the host for all to adore. However, the priest only elevates with one hand rather than with two (to show that this elevation is different from Mass). However, the Canon is omitted, and we go right from the Offertory, offering to God an already consecrated host, to the Pater Noster. The celebrant also receives the chalice; however, this is simple wine that has not been consecrated. Also, certain prayers are begun to be said, some are not finished, such as the Orate Fratres. This is begun but not finished. So it gives the appearance of a Mass but with significant differences.
The Mass of the Pre-sanctified is terminated following the celebrant’s communion and the purification. The Altar is then stripped again. However, the Crucifix remains unveiled because the Savior has been lifted up upon the tree for salvation at this point.
The theme, if you will, of Good Friday is the cross and the great emptiness that the world experienced on the first Good Friday. We join with the Blessed Virgin, and we await the resurrection. Unlike the Apostles, the Blessed Virgin was confident of the resurrection. The Church, on this day, gathers around her, it imitates her, and it draws its strength from her who kept the light of faith burning in the world on its darkest day. May we also unite with her this Good Friday, as we await also wait at the tomb for the glorious Resurrection of Christ.
Next week, I will address the Easter Vigil. Have a blessed week ahead!