Thursday, March 28, 2002


This name is peculiar to the Church of England (and thus to English culture where the Church has had an impact).

Of all Fridays of the year, there are profound reasons for giving this one the title of "GOOD."

It is the Day when the only One who was GOOD enough as a Person (for he was righteous and without sin) to pay the price of our sin, actually paid that price as the sacrificial Lamb on the Cross.

It is also the Day when the supreme GOOD of mankind - communion and friendship with the Lord - was made possible when the Son of God incarnate took away all barriers to realising and experiencing that good. The supreme end and good of man is to enjoy and glorify God forever and this is only possible through the reconciliation wrought by Christ Jesus on the Cross.

Further it is the Day when GOOD triumphed over evil as God the Father turned what could have been the world's greatest tragedy - the crucifixion of the most innocent of men - into the salvation of mankind, and as He turned an evil act and apparent defeat into the victory over Satan, sin and death.

Finally, it is the Day which provides the world with GOSPEL, that is GOOD NEWS, a message of hope to all the nations. The GOOD news is that there is forgiveness, a right relation with the Father, eternal life in the age to come, and friendship with God through the saving work of the Lord Jesus on the Cross.

Yet, while it is most certainly and surely a GOOD Friday, it is also a day of Fasting since it is the Day when the Bridegroom is taken away from his Bride [the Lord Jesus from his disciples - see Mark 2:19-20] as he descends into Hades to announce and proclaim his finished, saving and good work to those who have died and wait for their full redemption.

Thus the Church fasts for this whole day, or even for this day and the next day, until the great cry is heard --- CHRIST IS RISEN. ALLELUIA. Then with the Bridegroom returned she can eat with him at his banqueting table and her first food is his sacramental body and blood, at the Easter Eucharist.

The BCP (1662) provides Collects, an Epistle and Gospel for this GOOD Friday and the general Anglican tradition has been to have only Ante-Communion this day and to encourage meditation, prayer and quiet in church and at home.

In the Roman Missal there were eight collects for Good Friday and the three in the BCP are adapted from these. The first refers to the Church as the Family of the Redeemed, the second to the Church as a living organism, and the third embraces all outside the Church of God that they will be converted to Jesus Christ, the good Shepherd.

The last of the Collects has been the subject of criticism in modern times and has been amended for some editions of the BCP after 1662. In praying for all men it distinguishes the baptized faithful, the Jews, the Turks [Muslims], Infidels and Heretics [the baptized who have rejected the orthodox Faith] in order to pray that all of them and each of them will be converted to Jesus Christ and become part of his flock.

Instead of "Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Heretics" of the original there is substituted, for example, "Have mercy upon thine ancient people the Jews, and upon all who have not known thee, or who deny the faith of Christ crucified."

In these days of high sensitivity and political correctness, it is probably better that the modified version be used, allowing those who pray it to read into it the more definite meaning and petitions of the original English Collect [and Latin Collects] if they so wish.

Though the Church of England removed and eliminated all the solemn medieval ceremonies/features of this day in the sixteenth century [e.g. special intercessory prayers, the veneration of the Cross and the Mass of the pre-Sanctified] some of them have been restored in some parishes, especially those of an Anglo-Catholic disposition.

What it seems is inappropriate to revive and encourage is any devotion or piety that has as its aim to weep for Christ in his pain and agony before and on the Cross. While such was common in late medieval times and is still found today, it is quite wrong for it sets us above the Lord Jesus and encourages wrong emotions in our souls. One hymn has the line, "Have we no tears to shed for him?"

Christ does not want our pity but our total consecration to him.

The affections of the soul of the believer who contemplates the Lord Jesus on his Cross on this GOOD Friday ought to be occupied with profound reverence and awe, adoration and praise, before the overwhelming reality of the Incarnate Son of God engaging in holy battle with all the enemies of God and man in order to gain victory through his redeeming, reconciling and atoning work.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon, Maundy Thursday, 2002

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