Customs of Good Friday – Maria von Trapp


From Around the Year With the Trapp Family

On Good Friday Holy Mother Church gives her children a beautiful opportunity for a profession of faith: the adoration of the cross. Behind the priests and altar boys follows the whole congregation.
We remove our shoes when we go to adore the cross. Three times we prostrate ourselves as we come closer, until we finally bend over and kiss the feet of the crucified.
As we, the church choir, follow right behind the priest, we sing during the rest of the adoration. Our songs are the heartrendingly moving “Crux fidelis” by King John of Portugal, and Eberlin’s “Tenebrae factae sunt,” of such haunting beauty.

When the adoration of the cross is finished, the candles on the altar are lighted, the cross is most reverently taken up from the floor and placed on the altar, and a procession forms to get the Blessed Sacrament from the “Altar of Repose.”

During this procession the hymn “Vexilla Regis” is sung. And then follows a ceremony that is not a real Mass, although it is called the “Mass of the Pre-Sanctified.”
The priest consumes the Host that was consecrated the day before. On the anniversary of Our Lord’s death–the bloody sacrifice–the Church does not celebrate the symbol of the unbloody sacrifice.
After the official service is finished, the altar is stripped again. The tabernacle is left open, no vigil light burns in the sanctuary. But in front of the empty tabernacle lies the crucifix on the steps of the altar, and the people come all during the day for adoration.

In Austria another custom was added.

At the end of the official service the priest would carry the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance, covered with a transparent veil, and expose it on the side altar, where a replica of the Holy Sepulchre had been set up with more or less historical accuracy, with more or less taste, but always with the best of will.

Like the crèche around Christmas time, so the Holy Sepulchre on Good Friday would be an object of pride for every parish, one parish trying to outdo the other.
The people in Salzburg used to go around at Christmas time and in Holy Week to visit the Christ Child’s crib and the Holy Sepulchre in all thirty-five churches of the town, comparing and criticizing.
There would be literally hundreds of vigil lights surrounding the Body of Christ in the tomb of rock, which was almost hidden beneath masses of flowers.

There would be a guard of honor, not only of the soldiers, but also of firemen in uniform and of war veterans with picturesque plumed hats.
I still remember the atmosphere of holy awe stealing over my little heart when as a child I would make the rounds of churches. There in the Holy Sepulchre He would rest now, watched over by His faithful until Holy Saturday afternoon.

Here in America we have found another lovely custom: people going from church to church not on Good Friday but on Holy Thursday.
On that day, the churches are decorated with a profusion of flowers, as a sign of love and gratitude for the Holy Eucharist. The contrast with the bare churches the day after, on Good Friday, is all the more striking and gives a tremendous feeling of desolation.

Good Friday is a very quiet day with us.

There is little to do in the kitchen, since fasting is observed rigorously on this day.
We have no breakfast, and all that is served for lunch, on a bare table without tablecloth, is one pot of thick soup, “Einbrennsuppe,” which everyone eats standing up in silence. There is little noise around the house.

Talking is restricted to the bare essentials, as it would be if a dearly beloved was lying dead in the house.
As we are so privileged as to have a chapel in our house, we use the day when the holy house of God is empty and desolate to clean and polish all the sacred vessels and chalices and the ciborium, the monstrance, candlesticks, and censer.

The vigil light before the picture of the Blessed Mother in the living room is also extinguished, because on Good Friday Christ, the Light of the World, is dead.

From twelve until three, the hours of Our Lord’s agony on the cross, all activity stops. We sit together in the empty chapel before the cross and spend these hours in prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading. From time to time we rise and sing one or the other of the beautiful Lenten hymns and motets.

On Holy Saturday, a new stir of activity starts in the kitchen. Eggs are boiled in different pots containing various dyes–blue, green, purple, yellow, and red.

Every member of the household who wants to participate in this art takes some eggs to his or her room, after they have dried, to work on them in secret.

One takes some muriatic acid with which she etches the most intriguing patterns out of the colored foundation. It is quite popular in our house to etch the first line of Easter songs–staves, notes, and words.

Our cleverest artist sits with paint and brush, and under her fingers appear pictures of an Easter lamb, or of Our Risen Savior Himself, or of the Blessed Mother, or of the different patron saints of the family. Sometimes they turn out to be little gems.

Others fasten dried ferns or little maple leaves or other herbs around the eggs before they are boiled in dye. When these leaves are finally taken off, the shape of the flowers and herbs remains white, while the rest of the egg is colored. This is easily done and looks very pretty.

These eggs first appear on trays and in bowls on Easter Sunday morning at the foot of the altar for the solemn blessing of the food. Afterwards they will be distributed at the solemn Easter breakfast.

“The very presence of a woman who knows how to combine an enlightened piety with mildness, tact, and thoughtful sympathy, is a constant sermon; she speaks by her very silence, she instills convictions without argument, she attracts souls without wounding susceptibilities; and both in her own house and in her dealings with men and things, which must necessarily be often rude and painful, she plays the part of the soft cotton wool we put between precious but fragile vases to prevent their mutually injuring each other.” – Monseigneur Landriot, Archbishop of Rheims, 1872 -Loreto Publications

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