Yes, I know Good Friday is still two weeks away, but many are looking for good Good Friday resources now, so I wanted to repost this article / reflection on Good Friday by the late Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon. We first posted it at the original Lent & Beyond site 10 years ago, then reposted an excerpt again here at this version of L&B in 2007.
But since the full text can only be found at the Internet Archive site, it seemed good this year while celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Lent & Beyond to repost this entry in full.
Monday, April 05, 2004
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
O Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live: Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks [Muslims], Infidels and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
These Three Collects are united not only in that they are appointed for this most solemn of all days in the Christian Year, but also in that they are based upon the content of the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus (John 17) uttered on the eve of his Crucifixion, as well as upon the achievement of his sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction offered on the Cross for the sins of the whole world.
As Jesus first prayed for his band of disciples, his little flock, so the first Collect is for the specific congregation – “this thy family”. As Jesus consecrated himself to the Father’s will for the sake of his disciples, so he also gave himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of each and every congregation and very member thereof.
The second Collect recognizes that the Church throughout the world and also in its local expressions is composed of many different kinds of persons – “all estates of men” – and thus prayer is offered that each kind of person and each member will serve the Lord truly in his vocation and ministry, led by the Holy Spirit.
In his Priestly Prayer Jesus moved on to pray for those who would believe on his Name, asking that they be brought together in unity and communion with the Father. So the third Collect, mindful that in the death of Jesus is a propitiation not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), makes intercession for those living outside the fellowship of the Church of God. Prayer is offered for the Jews, who, while they acknowledge the Father, deny the Son, whose very office is to reveal the Father. Intercession is offered for the Turks [Muslims], who while they admit that Jesus is a prophet, deny that he is truly the Son of God made flesh. Supplication is made for Infidels, who know neither the true God not Jesus Christ whom he has sent into the world. And petition is made for Heretics, those who have once known and received the truth as it is in Jesus and then have corrupted and perverted it. Such prayers are wholly appropriate if it be the case that in the message of Christ crucified is the real and true salvation of the world. The aim is that they will not be merely one flock of Christ but one fold, with all divisions removed that have separated them.
The origin of the three collects is of interest. In its Latin form the first was the final prayer of the Mass on Wednesday of Holy Week. The people were asked to bow their heads and this prayer was said over them. The second was one of eighteen prayers said after the Gospel on Good Friday in the ancient Church. In the Sarum Missal used widely in England it comes between a prayer for the bishops and one for the king. The third is a compilation based on several of these prayers said after the Gospel on Good Friday. When these prayers were first composed and used in the fourth and fifth century there were no Muslims and so they were not prayed for. However, all other kinds and types of non-Christians were prayed for as their conversion was desired.
GOOD FRIDAY – 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 realizing 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 and showed it in Resurrection.
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 for the Church, the Bride of Christ, 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 – CHRIST IS RISEN. ALLELUIA – is heard on Easter morning. Then with the victorious and faithful 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 Book of Common Prayer (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.
The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon.),
Christ Church, Biddulph Moor & St Anne’s, Brown Edge;
Vice-President and Emissary-at-Large
of The Prayer Book Society of America