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Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday and beyond

Its been a busy day, as it always is for those of us who try to keep this most important Christian celebration. The Solemn Liturgy of the Cross is really a continuation of the Maundy Thursday celebration of the Last Supper, a service which culminates in the stripping of all the altars and all decoration from the church except for the chapel in which the Consecrated Host is kept in readiness for the Solemn Liturgy.

Symbolically the reservation of the Sacrament in this chapel reminds us of the night spent by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and a number of "watchers" keep the watch through the night, praying in the chapel before the Host. The Solemn Liturgy on the Friday commences with the Sacred Ministers prostrating themselves before the High Altar then prayers and a reading from the Epistles are followed by the unaccompanied singing of the Gradual Hymn and the sininging of the entire Passion Gospel from St John.

At the end of the Gospel prayer precedes the carrying in of the veiled Crucifix by the Deacon which is unveiled with the proclamation at three "stations" in the nave of "Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the Saviour of the World". At the head of the nave the revealed crucifix (A very large one) is venerated by the ministers, servers and congregation then carried to the High Altar and placed on a stand. The reserved Sacrament is carried in by the Sub Deacon and the congregation is communicated. Then a short collect is said, the Priest flings the book aside, strips off his vestments and these and those of the Deacon and Sub Deacon are flung onto the altar at the foot of the crucifix - and everyone turns away and walks out.

Symbolically this is one of the most powerful reminders to us all of the despair of the crucifixion and the loss of hope by His disciples.

The day continues with the Three Hour Devotion and a reflection on the love that hung on the cross for us all. What a preparation for the joy that is Easter and the Empty Tomb.

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