Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some Thoughts on the Good Friday Liturgy

The Book of Common Prayer devotes quite a large amount of space to Holy Week and Easter. There are no less than 36 pages given over to the lessons for this time of the year, and if a parish is able to follow the BCP closely there should be, at the very least Morning Prayer, Holy or Ante-Communion, and Evening Prayer daiuly from Palm Sunday to Easter Tuesday. This is only fitting, as Holy Week culminates in that greatest of all feast - Easter.

Surprisingly, however, many Anglican parishes tend to rather shine off the Prayer Book provision for Holy Week and substitute non-liturgical devotions such as "the Three Hours" and "the Seven Last Word from the Cross" for the apointed liturgy. When one remembers that the former started with the Jesuits, and the latter, if I remember correctly with the Redemptorists, as supplements to the appointed order in the Roman Catholic Church, then one might see why one might thing them a little inappropriate as a substitute for the appoint liturgy of the Church. Back in the days when the Three Hours became popular, the Good Friday Liturgy culminating in the Mass of the Presanctified was required to be celebrated in the morning. This made it impossible for working men to attend the liturgy, hence the creation of this popular devotion to assist their devotions. However, Anglicans did not labour under such severe rubrical restrictions.

From my point of view, Litany and Ante-Communion as part of the Good Friday obervance has a lot going for it. The Litany is a beautiful form of intercession, and one that most parishes do not use enough. The Ante-Communion for Good Friday revolves around the two traditional readings from the Good Friday Liturgy from Hebrews and the Gospel of St John, and should culminate, it seems to me, with either the bidding prayer, or better still the nine solemn collects, which are to be found in several Anglican sources, and a sermon on the Passion. Braver souls might even want to add the veneration of the Cross and the reproaches which are given in the 1933 edition of the English Hymnal which is allowed in most Continuing Churches.

It seems to me that Good Friday is one day when we should resist the temptation to substitute 'a hymn and a thing (repeat as often as necessary)' for the appointed liturgy of the Church.