Great is the dignity of the human soul, since each one of them has from the very outset of his life an Angel deputed to safeguard him. – St Jerome
Each person on earth has a guardian angel who watches over him and helps him to attain his salvation. Angelical guardianship begins at the moment of birth; prior to this, the child is protected by the mother’s guardian angel. This protection continues throughout our whole life and ceases only when our probation on earth ends, namely, at the moment of death. Our guardian angel accompanies our soul to purgatory or heaven, and becomes our coheir in the heavenly kingdom.
Angels are servants and messengers from God. “Angel” in Greek means messenger. In unseen ways the angels help us on our earthly pilgrimage by assisting us in work and study, helping us in temptation and protecting us from physical danger.
The idea that each soul has assigned to it a personal guardian angel has been long accepted by the Church and is a truth of our faith. From the Gospel of today’s liturgy we read: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matthew 18:10). The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith (328).” From our birth until our death, man is surrounded by the protection and intercession of angels, particularly our guardian angel: “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life (336).” The Church thanks God for our helpers, the angels, particularly on this feast day and September 29 which is the feast of Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael, archangels.
Today is Corpus Christi Sunday (Corpus Christi is Latin for Body of Christ), the solemn commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist. It s an act of homage and gratitude to Christ, who by instituting the Holy Eucharist gave to the Church her greatest treasure. Holy Thursday, assuredly, marks the anniversary of the institution, but the commemoration of the Lord’s Passion that very night suppresses the rejoicing proper to the occasion. Today’s observance, therefore, accents the joyous aspect of Holy Thursday.
Note that the feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (which was last Thursday), but where it isn’t observed as a holy day, like in Canada and USA, it is assigned to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. A lot of communities hold Eucharistic processions on this feast. A notable Eucharistic procession is the one presided by the Pope each year in Rome where it begins at the Archbasilica of St John Lateran and makes its way to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major where it concludes with the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The liturgical solemnity of Corpus Christi celebrates the tradition and belief in the Body and Blood of Christ and his Real Presence in the Euchrist.
The celebration of Easter is prolonged throughout the Easter season. The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated as one feast day, the “great Sunday.”
The Sundays of this season are regarded as Sundays of Easter and are so termed; they have precedence over all feasts of the Lord and over all solemnities. Solemnities that fall on one of these Sundays are anticipated on the Saturday. Celebrations in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the saints that fall during the week may not be transferred to one of these Sundays.
Intercession should be made in the Eucharistic Prayer for the newly baptized. It is also appropriate that children receive their first communion on one or other of the Sundays of Easter.
This sacred period of fifty days concludes with Pentecost Sunday, when the gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, the beginnings of the Church, and the start of its mission to all tongues and peoples and nations are commemorated.
“It is proper to the paschal festivity that the whole Church rejoices at the forgiveness of sins, which is not only for those who are reborn in Holy Baptism, but also for those who have long been numbered among the adopted children.” By means of a more intensive pastoral care and a deeper spiritual effort, all who celebrate the Easter feasts will, by the Lord’s grace, experience their effect in their daily lives.
“It is accomplished; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.” (Jn 19:30)
Today the whole Church mourns the death of our Savior. This is traditionally a day of sadness, spent in fasting and prayer. On this day, when “Christ our passover was sacrificed,” the Church mediates on the passion of her Lord and Spouse, adores the cross, commemorates her origin from the side of Christ asleep on the cross, and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world.
According to the Church’s ancient tradition, the sacraments, including the Eucharist but with the exception of the sacrements of penance and anointing of the sick, are not celebrated on Good Friday nor Holy Saturday. “Celebration of the Lord’s Passion,” traditionally known as the “Mass of the Presanctified,” (although it is not a mass) is usually celebrated around three o’clock in the afternoon.
The altar is completely bare, with no cloths, candles nor cross. The service is divided into three parts: Liturgy of the Word, Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion. The priest and deacons wear red or black vestments. The liturgy starts with the priests and deacons going to the altar in silence and prostrating themselves for a few moments in silent prayer. This act of prostration, which is proper to the rite of the day, should be strictly observed for it signifies both the abasement of “earthly man,” and also the grief and sorrow of the Church. As the ministers enter, the faithful should be standing, and thereafter should kneel in silent prayer. Then an introductory prayer is prayed.
In part one, the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the most famous of the Suffering Servant passages from Isaiah (52:13-53:12), a pre-figurement of Christ on Good Friday. Psalm 30 is the Responsorial Psalm “Father, I put my life in your hands.” The Second Reading, or Epistle, is from the letter to the Hebrews, 4:14-16; 5:7-9. The Gospel Reading is the Passion of St. John.
Part two is the Veneration of the Cross. A cross, either veiled or unveiled, is processed through the Church, and then venerated by the congregation. The cross is to be presented to each of the faithful individually for their adoration, since the personal adoration of the cross is a most important feature in this celebration. We joyfully venerate and kiss the wooden cross “on which hung the Savior of the world.” In the cross we see that Jesus Christ is the victorious Lord. During this time the “Reproaches” are usually sung or recited.
Part three, Holy Communion, concludes the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. The altar is covered with a cloth and the ciboriums containing the Blessed Sacrament are brought to the altar from the place of reposition. The Our Father and the Ecce Agnus Dei (“This is the Lamb of God”) are recited. The sign of peace is not exchanged. The congregation receives Holy Communion, there is a “Prayer After Communion,” and then a “Prayer Over the People,” and everyone departs in silence. It should be the only time during Good Friday where Holy Communion is distributed, other than distribution to the sick who cannot take part in the celebration. When communion has been distributed, the pyx is taken to a place prepared for it outside of the church.
After the celebration, the altar is stripped; the cross remains, however with four candles. An appropriate place (for example, the chapel of repose used for reservation of the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday) can be prepared within the church, and there the Lord’s cross is placed so that the faithful may venerate and kiss it and spend some time in meditation.
Things to do on Good Friday
This is a day of mourning. We should try to take time off from work and school to participate in the devotions and liturgy of the day as much as possible. In addition, we should refrain from extraneous conversation. Some families leave the curtains drawn, and maintain silence during the 3 hours (noon — 3p.m.), and keep from loud conversation or activities throughout the remainder of the day. We should also restrict ourselves from any TV, music or computer—these are all types of technology that can distract us from the spirit of the day.
Good Friday is a day of penance to be observed as an obligation in the whole Church, and indeed, through abstinence and fasting. Although throughout Lent we have tried to mortify ourselves, it is appropriate to try some practicing extra mortifications today. These can be very simple, such as eating less at the small meals of fasting, or eating standing up. Some people just eat bread and soup, or just bread and water while standing at the table. Ireland, they practice the “black fast,” which is to consume nothing but black tea and water.