OME AUTHORS believe the 6th-century “Pange Lingua” (by Bishop Fortunatus) to be the greatest hymn of the Church. It is sung on Good Friday, and is featured prominently in the Brébeuf hymnal, with multiple translations, numerous melodies, various harmonizations, copious footnotes, and so forth. Those who wish to add polyphony to Good Friday might consider the following SATB REFRAIN setting by Maria Quinn (d. 1977):
Is it traditional?
Some ask whether it’s “traditional” to receive Holy Communion on Good Friday. The forthcoming CAMPION MISSAL, THIRD EDITION—published by Sophia Institute Press—contains the following information (reproduced with permission from Sophia).
A Favorite Communion Day: In the 1950 version of Good Friday, the priest alone receives Communion. However, in the early days of the Church, the entire congregation received on Good Friday, which was “a favorite Communion day” [Jungmann v2, p409] until near the end of the Middle Ages. In 1955, Pope Pius XII modified the Missa praesanctificatorum, allowing the entire congregation to receive. Father Hannibal Bugnini (yes, that Bugnini) and Father Carlo Braga published a commentary explaining the Holy Week reforms in EPHEMERIDES LITURGICAE (28 February 1956) under the title: Ordo Hebdomadae Sanctae Instauratus: Commentarium…etc. Pages 105-109 provide extensive documentation, with many sources cited, vis-à-vis Holy Communion on Good Friday. A very important source is the GELASIAN SACRAMENTARY—which dates from approximately 734AD—and here is the relevant citation from folio 66:
Istas orationes supra scriptas expletas, ingrediuntur diaconi in sacrario. Procedunt cum corpore et sanguinis Domini quod ante die remansit: et ponunt super altare. Et venit sacerdos ante altare, adorans crucem Domini et osculans. Et dicit “Orémus.” Et sequitur “Præcéptis salutáribus móniti,” et oratio Dominica. Inde “Líbera nos Domine quǽsumus.” Haec omnia expleta, adorant omnes sanctam crucem et communicant.
The Cross And The Mass: Reception of Holy Communion by the faithful on Good Friday was very much in accordance with I Corinthians 11:26: Quotiescúmque enim manducábitis panem hunc, et cálicem bibétis, mortem Domini annuntiábitis (“It is the Lord’s death you are heralding, whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup”). Indeed, Father Bugnini and Father Braga specifically cite this verse in their 1956 Commentarium (p105), yet the reformers would later carefully excise this verse from the 1970 Missal, whereas in the classical Roman Rite it was read each year on Holy Thursday (Epistle) and Corpus Christi (Communion).
A Change Took Place: General Communion on Good Friday was a “universal practice that perdured for centuries” [Giampietro p67]. But then a change took place; the priest alone received Holy Communion on Good Friday. This change is first explicitly documented in the 13th century. According to Cardinal Antonelli, this cessation “is easily understood in the context of the general rarification of communion which had reached such a stage by the 13th century that the Ecumenical Lateran Council of 1215 obliged all the faithful to approach the holy table at least once every year” [Giampietro p67]. Nevertheless, until the time of Pope Pius V, some liturgical books still allowed the faithful to receive Holy Communion on Good Friday; e.g. the Obsequiale Frisingense of 1493AD (folio 41r), cited by James Monti [Monti p443]. The first document that explicitly forbids reception by the faithful dates from 1622AD [Goddard p277]. When Pope Saint Pius X restored the practice of more frequent Communion, if he were being “consistent” he should have restored General Communion on Good Friday. On the other hand, there are several reasons why such a change may not have been desirable at that time. (Some authors note that the faithful did not usually attend the ceremonies of Good Friday, which were held early in the morning during the time of Pope Pius X.)
The Lord’s Prayer: To learn of the great antiquity of the PATER NOSTER in connection with distribution of Holy Communion, cf. Father Jungmann’s Missarum Sollemnia (Benziger Brothers, 1950), second volume, page 281. These theories were very much in vogue during the 1950s; e.g. “The priest begins the preparation for the Communion by singing the Our Father” [Solesmes1957 p19]. James Monti discovered several important ceremonies that—in former days—took place at this time in conjunction with the PATER NOSTER [Monti p442].