Good Friday – from the Traditional Latin Liturgy

Taken from Saint Andrew Daily Missal

Station at Holy Cross in Jerusalem

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 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:

First Lesson:  (Osee vi. 1-6)

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.

Tract:  (Habacuc iii, 2-3)

O Lord, I have heard Thy hearing again and was afraid: I have considered Thy works and trembled. V. In the midst of two animals Thou shalt be made known: when the time shall come, Thou shalt be manifested. V. When my soul shall be in trouble, Thou wilt remember mercy, even in Thy wrath. V. God will come from Libanus and the Holy One from the shady and thickly covered mountain. V. His mercy covered the heavens: and the earth is full of His praise.

Second Lesson:  (Exodus xii. 1-11)

Tract:  (Psalm cxxxix. 2-10, 14)


The Passion: John xviii. 1-40; xix. 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.


In the second part of to-day’s liturgy we have a relic of prayers which were also a feature of the primitive gatherings referred to above. Of these prayers the only trace existing in the Roman Mass is the Oremus, said before the Offertory. 

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.


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:
Venite adoremus.
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.

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