Considering our familiarity with the readings, I wanted to touch on other aspects of the Liturgy today for this reflection.
This is a liturgy of paradox: we commemorate His death, but don't have Mass; sadness is tempered by the bright red vestments; the Cross is our sign of victory, yet we lay prostrate before the altar at the start. It is jarring.
To begin, the priest enters the sanctuary in silence and lays for a period before the altar in prostration. This is a supreme act of humilty, an act of submission, and an act where we ask Our Lord's blessing and strength to be with us this day. We rise and go straight to the Opening Prayer. There is no greeting, no sign of the Cross, nothing. The jarring nature of this liturgy continues.
Here at the Cathedral, even for a penitential day, there is much more singing than usual. But it is somber and severe. More of it is unaccompanied than normal. The Psalm was simple chant, in one voice. The Passion was chanted by three cantors, and powerfully done. The narrator is sung by a baritone, the voices by a tenor, and Christ by a bass, because He is the fullness of humanity. It adds a dramatic effect to the reading, as Pilate's voice is so high when asking about Truth, and Christ responds in that deep basso profundo. Who speaks with the greater authority?
Archbishop's homilies have been pretty good this week, much more of a personal application than he has had in the past.
The prayers of petition again are unique, developed, and ancient. We pray for everyone and their brother, showing our need to pray not just for ourselves and those who are dear to us, but to follow Jesus' example from the Cross and pray for those who persecute us. (Cardinal Zen has great meditations on this from the Way of the Cross in Rome. These are the only 'Zen Meditations I endorse, hee hee.)
The Veneration of the Cross is equally dramatic and jarring. Here, we use an 8 foot cross, or thereabouts. Three deacons carry it in and elevate it while the Archbishop intones the verse and response. The quality of the choir in singing while the faithful come forward, chilling.
Communion proceeds, simply, with any remaining Species reserved in the private chapel. The main Cathedral is empty, His presence is gone. "Why is this night different from all other nights?"
We have Stations a little bit later today.