Communion on Good Friday

Communion on Good Friday
Over the years, many parishes have ceased including the Communion Rite in their Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday. This practice is usually justified on one of three grounds: (1) that Communion on Good Friday is a recent addition to the rite, (2) that we should fast from Communion between Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil, and (3) that Communion should not be given outside of Mass.
Communion on Good Friday is not a recent practice at all. It was part of the parish liturgy in Rome and in the Frankish lands in the 7th century. Certainly between the 13th century and 1955 when the Easter liturgy was reformed it was only the priest who received communion, but that was true of many Masses anyway. The Rite of Communion was still part of the liturgy.
As for ‘fasting from communion while Jesus is in the tomb’ as one person explained it to me, the whole of the paschal mystery is celebrated from a different point of view on each of the three days. We participate in the paschal mystery through sacramental signs – foot washing, cross, fire and light, water and oil, scripture stories and the paschal meal.
The Triduum, like other feasts and seasons of the liturgical year, is not a re-enactment of historical events. Jesus does not institute the Lord’s Supper again on Holy Thursday or die again on Good Friday and rise again on Easter Sunday morning. Communion on Good Friday reminds us that Christ is not dead but lives among us.
Good Friday is the ONLY time in the church’s liturgy when people are fed from the tabernacle. This should seldom, if ever, happen at other times. Despite liturgical laws and theological explanations denouncing the practice, week after week thousands of Catholics are given communion from hosts that were consecrated at a previous Mass. It is also common practice for the faithful to be offered communion under the form of bread alone.
I also have grave reservations about the proliferation of ‘Communion Services’, in which communion is given to the faithful during a Liturgy of the Word or even Liturgy of the Hours whenever Mass cannot be celebrated. But dispensing with communion on Good Friday does not address these issues in any way.
The difference between the Rite of Communion that we celebrate during the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and the Liturgy of the Eucharist that is part of Mass would stand out much more clearly if the Liturgy of the Eucharist was celebrated as it should be – with the Eucharistic Prayer proclaimed prayerfully and clearly, with incense, candles and music used to enhance the celebration, and of course with communion given only from what was consecrated at that Mass and offered under both kinds.
There are other good reasons for retaining the Communion Rite on Good Friday. Because the communion we receive was consecrated and solemnly reserved on Holy Thursday, it helps us understand the unity between the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrifice of the cross. It helps us appreciate the unity of the Triduum because communion links the Good Friday liturgy with the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper and looks forward to the great Eucharist of the Easter Vigil.


Elizabeth Harrington