(Third in a series, see Triduum Reflections I and II)
I have often considered returning to the ancient practice whereby, on Good Friday, Holy Communion was not offered. As we know, the liturgy of Good Friday is not a celebration of the Eucharist but rather a Liturgy of the Word during which consecrated Bread from the Holy Thursday Eucharist is given to the assembly.
Having been privileged for many years now to celebrate the Triduum in parishes where the Veneration of the Cross is done with solemnity, song and a deep reverence, I have long experienced the Veneration as the moment of communion among the faithful and have wondered if the ancient practice (no Holy Communion) might be worth revisiting. (Nor am I the only one to raise such questions and, indeed, I know that in some communities this has been tried.)
But this year's experience has significantly changed my mind. Our parish uses a large, almost life-size wooden cross for the veneration. It is carried in procession into the church by five women who then take turns, in pairs, holding the cross upright and secure for the people to come forward and venerate.
Because of its size and weight, we have never found a good place to retire the Cross once the Veneration is completed and it is time for Communion. Its size argues against laying it on the floor or altar steps lest it appear to be simply dropped or abandoned there. We have settled in the past for leaning it against the back wall to rear of the altar and ambo - but still it looks ill-placed there.
Only on this year's Good Friday afternoon did it occur to me that a good place to repose this large Cross would be on the altar itself. This picture was taken after the Good Friday liturgy:
While the deacon went to bring the Eucharist for Communion, we took the Cross from the place where it had been venerated (at the foot of the steps to the altar) and laid it upon the altar. I gave a brief, simple catechesis on the relationship between the altar of Eucharist and the altar of the Cross, the sacrifice of Eucharist and the sacrifice of the Cross, and how the Eucharist at the Lord's table is our share, our participation in the sacrifice of Calvary. Not only did this provide a catechetical moment for understanding Eucharist as sacrifice and the connection between the mandatum and the Cross as signs of self-giving service, it also made a graceful connection between the first two liturgies of the Triduum.
My experience was that this linked the communio experience of the Veneration with the Communion experience of the Sacrament of the altar.
(For those who are wondering: we placed a corporal in a space not taken by the Cross for placing the reserved Eucharist on the altar once it arrived. This served the purpose well.)
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome in the combox.