On this day, when ‘Christ our passover was sacrificed’, the Church meditates on the Passion of her Lord and Spouse, adores the Cross, commemorates her origin from the side of Christ on the Cross, and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world.
On this day, in accordance with ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist: Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful during the celebration of the Lord’s Passion alone, though it may be brought at any time of the day to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration.
Good Friday is a day of penance to be observed as of obligation in the whole Church through abstinence and fasting.
All celebration of the sacraments on this day is strictly prohibited, except for the sacraments of Penance and Anointing of the Sick. Funerals are to be celebrated without singing, music, or the tolling of bells.
It is recommended that on this day the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer be celebrated with the participation of the people in the churches.
The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion is to take place in the afternoon, at about three o’clock. The time will be chosen as shall seem most appropriate for pastoral reasons in order to allow the people to assemble more easily, for example, shortly after midday, or in the late evening, however, no later than nine o’clock.
The Order for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion (the liturgy of the Word, the adoration of the Cross, and Holy Communion) stems from an ancient tradition of the Church and should be observed faithfully and religiously; it may not be changed by anyone on his own initiative.
The priest and ministers proceed to the altar in silence, and without any singing. If any words of introduction are to be said, they should be pronounced before the ministers enter. The priest and ministers make a reverence to the altar, prostrating themselves. This act of prostration, which is proper to the rite of the day, should be strictly observed, for it signifies both the abasement of ‘earthly man’, and also the grief and sorrow of the Church. The faithful, for their part, should be standing as the ministers enter, and thereafter should kneel in silent prayer.
The readings are to be read in their entirety. The responsorial psalm and the chant before the Gospel are to be sung in the usual manner. The narrative of the Lord’s Passion according to John is sung or read in the way prescribed. After the reading of the Passion, a homily should be given, at the end of which the faithful may be invited to spend a short time in meditation.
The General Intercessions are to follow the wording and form handed down by ancient tradition, maintaining the full range of intentions, so as to signify clearly the universal effect of the Passion of Christ, who hung on the Cross for the salvation of the whole world. In case of grave public necessity the local Ordinary may permit or prescribe the adding of special intentions.
In this event it is permitted that the priest select from the prayers of the Missal those more appropriate to local circumstances, in such a way however that the series follows the rule for General Intercessions.
For veneration of the Cross, let a cross be used that is of appropriate size and beauty, and let one or other of the forms for this rite as found in the Roman Missal be followed. The rite should be carried out with the splendour worthy of the mystery of our salvation: both the invitation pronounced at the unveiling of the Cross, and the people’s response should be made in song, and a period of respectful silence is to be observed after each act of veneration, the celebrant standing and holding the raised Cross.
The Cross is to be presented to each of the faithful individually for their adoration, since the personal adoration of the Cross is a most important feature in this celebration, and only when necessitated by the large numbers of faithful present should the rite of veneration be made simultaneously by all present.
Only one Cross should be used for the veneration, as this contributes to the full symbolism of the rite. During the veneration of the Cross the antiphons, ‘Reproaches’ and hymns should be sung, so that the history of salvation be commemorated through song. Other appropriate songs may also be sung.
The priest sings the invitation to the Lord’s Prayer, which is then sung by all. The sign of peace is not exchanged. The Communion rite is as described in the Missal.
During the distribution of Communion, psalm 21 or another suitable song may be sung. When Communion has been distributed the pyx is taken to a place prepared for it outside the church.
After the celebration, the altar is stripped, the Cross remaining however, with four candles. An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord’s Cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it, and spend some time in meditation.
Devotions, such as the Way of the Cross, processions of the Passion, and the commemorations of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not, for pastoral reasons, to be neglected. The texts and songs used should be adapted to the spirit of the Liturgy of this day. Such devotions should be assigned to a time of day that makes it quite clear that the liturgical celebration by its very nature far surpasses them in importance.
– Given at Rome, at the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 16 January 1988