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Mass of the Presanctified
Introduction to the Liturgy

The instruction given by Pope Pius XII stipulates that Good Friday's solemn liturgy take place after noon; the best time would be three o'clock, and on no account may it begin later than six o'clock. The same Pope revives the old practice of all receiving Communion this day as a necessary part of the liturgical function. This consists of four main divisions, each of which has its own historical interest, the whole forming a dramatic representation of the Sacred Passion.

I & II. The first two parts consists of reading from Scripture, and a prayer followed by St. John's story of the Passion, and concluded by a long series of prayers for various intentions. In this part we have preserved the form of the earliest Christian prayer meeting--a service with was derived from the Jewish Synagogue. To this service of Scriptural readings the celebration of the Eucharist was afterwards joined to form the one solemn act of worship now called the Mass. This Mass still preserves these distinct divisions: the first from the beginning to the Offertory, in which the Introit and Gloria are included; the second from the Offertory to the Communion. The first division is called the Mass of the Catechumens, (for they were not permitted to remain for the celebration of the Eucharist); the second, the Mass of the Faithful.

III. The third part consists of the unveiling and adoration of the Cross. This ceremony was originally connected with the relic of the true Cross, and had its origin in Jerusalem. A veiled crucifix is gradually exposed to view, and three times at the words Venite adoremus the faithful kneel in adoration to the Redeemer.

IV. The fourth part, the Communion of Priest and people, completes what used to be known as the Mass of the Presanctified. Today's liturgy clearly does not constitute a Mass, for there is no Consecration; all who communicate receive sacred particles consecrated at the Mass of the previous day. This form of "Mass" is familiar in the Greek rite.

The service opens with a Mass of the Catechumens in what is perhaps its oldest and simplest form. It has neither Introit, Gloria, nor Credo, but consists merely of two lessons, followed each by a Tract, also taken from the prophets. The Gospel is the story of the Passion according to St. John. This is followed by the most ancient form of intercession. The priest (formerly the deacon) makes a solemn appeal to the faithful, telling them for whom each Prayer is to be offered: for the Church, the Pope, the Bishops, priests, etc. the Jews, pagans, heretics, prisoners, etc. The Flectamus genua is said and all kneel down to pray until the subdeacon bids them to rise. Then the celebrant turns to God, Almighty and Eternal, and formulates the prayer in the name of all. This was the oldest form of the Collect or public prayer.

The adoration of the Cross is followed by a short Communion service. The ciborium containing the sacred hosts consecrated yesterday is brought in silence with the simplest of ceremonial from the Altar of Repose. Preparation for Communion is fittingly made by all standing to recite the Pater Noster in unison, and the Communion itself is followed at once by three prayers of thanksgiving. These end the day's solemn function.

The altar should be completely bare, without crucifix, candles or altar-cloths.

If there are not enough priests or clerics, the Solemn afternoon Liturgy of today is performed by the celebrant with the assistance of servers as noted by the use of square brackets []; but if clergy are present, it is very fitting for them to assist in choir.

Hence all wear choir-dress; the celebrant and deacon are vested in amice, alb, cincture and black stole, the subdeacon in amice, alb and cincture.

Until the Holy Cross is unveiled, neither clergy nor servers genuflect to the altar, but only bow their heads. But when the Cross has been unveiled, until the beginning of the Easter Vigil exclusive, all genuflect before the Cross on the principle altar.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

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