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Good Friday - The Solemn Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord

The Word Today

Good Friday is such a powerful day; we venerate the sign which is central to our faith - the cross, because on it the sinless one experienced the fullest emptying of himself, the fullest sharing in what it is to be human, to enter the darkness of death. It is the ultimate ‘submission’ (as the second reading says), by which the suffering servant “is made perfect”. By this death, our high priest feels “our weaknesses with us”, and leads each of us by the hand through our own death to the liberation we shall celebrate tomorrow. The cross is thus triumphant, a victory-sign.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

How much could be said about the pain and beauty of this reading ! The language is so powerful, all the reader has to do is to read it from the heart, and weep with it. Listen in your heart to some of the words: disfigured, without beauty, despised, sorrows, sufferings, pierced, peace, harshly dealt with, torn away, a grave with the wicked, crush, atonement, anguish, surrender, praying. But the reading is not just about anguish and suffering. It also proclaims triumph. Be careful to reflect this in reading, and not just lie in the pain of Good Friday. Identify those lines which are about the glory of Jesus’ offering: “he shall be lifted up”, “through his wounds we are healed”, “he shall have a long life”, “he shall see the light and be content”, “he shall divide the spoil with the mighty.” In order that these contrasts be allowed to speak clearly, this reading will have to be taken very meditatively: do not rush. The Church gathers this afternoon precisely to hear this word - take your time, and allow it its full effect. The Passion, which follows, is a familiar story. This reading gives the context which helps us understand the meaning for us today of the Passion story.

Second Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9.

If the Isaiah reading began to explain the meaning  of the Passion, this reading completes it. This simple reading links the mystery of the Incarnation with that of the Passion: why did the Word of God become Flesh ? Why was the eternal Word born in time ? So that we can be “confident in approaching the throne of grace when we are in need of help” - because the one who has suffered all that we can suffer is the source of our salvation. Because Jesus is true God - and true man. Don’t read this in a matter of fact way. Take it very slowly: this is in many ways the central proclamation of Good Friday. The final paragraph is especially moving: Jesus prayed that he be ‘saved out of death’, and because of his submission to the point of death, his prayer was heard. This links today with tomorrow: Jesus’s prayer was not answered by avoiding death, but by passing through it to a new life.