Mangaluru, Apr 20, 2019: Good Friday, April 19, was marked by traditional solemn observances at Rosario Cathedral. Even before dawn a steady stream of people could be seen going there to pray. At 11 am a way of the cross was a very uplifting experience for the huge gathering that was present. at 5 pm the Good Friday liturgy commenced with Rev Msgr Maxim Noronha, the Vicar General giving the lead and all the priests attached to Rosario parish assisting.After the first part as prescribed by church liturgy, the second part was the traditional observance seen at this first Cathedral for decades. The main ’Annual Sermon from the pulpit’ on the suffering and death of Christ by Rev Fr. Flavian Lobo, the youthful and serious Assistant Vicar of the cathedral was mind stopping indeed. People listened to the 40 minute homily in rapt attention. The sermon touched on wide matters of the scriptural recordings of Christs crucifixion and death in a comprehensive sweep. Rare insights touched by candid simplicity of thought held listeners spell bound. This set the spirit for the lowering of the body of Christ from the cross in a reverent manner followed by a procession with the representation of the Body of Christ. Indeed it proved to be another Good Friday to be etched in the memory of the witnesses here.
Good Friday : Christ died and was buried on that day and it is called ’Good’? A ’saviour’ paid for the ransom of His people and they were saved and will live in the abode of GOD forever. This prophesy was consummated by the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross near 2000 years ago, redeeming mankind from sin as per the Bible, Christian scripture. There are about 1.2 million followers world wide. The foci of Christianity is the Resurrection of Christ on the third day after his death - Easter Sunday! There is no ’Easter’ without ’Good Friday’. Reasons why Easter is the Day par excellence, and why the Friday which marks the anniversary of Christ’s death is called the Great or the Holy or the Good Friday are now garbled. The use of ’Good’ has many explanations. Some say it is from German "God’s Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others that it is from "Good Friday" (Gute Freitag), and not specially English. The day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons, today in Denmark. Locally, "Shubha Sukravara" (Auspicious Friday) in Kannada and "Nimanno Sukrar" (Last Friday) in Konkani are the norm.
CHURCH RITUALS: Good Friday liturgy in churches is significantly solemn and reverent, well attended, usually commences in the late after noon and lasts about three hours, in the Catholic Churches. In olden times the liturgy was long in Latin and between noon and 3 pm. The liturgy now is of three parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.
The liturgical celebration of Good Friday has undergone various changes over the centuries. In the Roman Catholic church, under the Popes, the mass was not celebrated on Good Friday until Middle Ages. When it began only the celebrant priest received holy communion. Laypeople are offered communion on Good Friday since 1955. In the 17th century, the Three Hour Service, a meditation on Jesus’ “Seven Last Words on the Cross,” was introduced by the Jesuits.
In the Anglican Church, The Book of Common Prayer provides for a specific celebration on Good Friday. The Three Hour Service has become common and a variety of liturgical services are held on Good Friday in other Protestant churches. With liturgical emphasis in Protestantism in the second half of the 20th century, a distinct trend developed to adopt Catholic ritual ( without the organ in the service, draping of the cross, baring of the altar, etc.).
REFLECTIONS: Unlike in the present times, there were no films,TV or the like. The only means were street plays, stage dramas and so on to reflect on religious narrations. Mangalorean seniors will recall the passion play that used to be staged by the famous Konkani Natak Sabah at Don Bosco hall which was a great event of old times in lent. Early ’inculturation’ in the church of Mangalore, influenced by the Goan clergy, points to significant enactments of important scriptural prophesy, episodes and parables to educate people. A popular form of passion enactment in the holy week local church liturgy, it commenced in early times and ceased post Vatican II in the late 1960s. Presently perhaps one of the only ones kept alive of these in the city at least, is visible at Rosario Cathedral, Mangalore’s oldest church. On Good Friday each year, the only church said to retain a traditional ’Pulpit’ is Rosario Cathedral, and this is invariably put to use on Good Friday. The panegyric of the Crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ is specially delivered, articulate, fiery, loud, firm speech from the antique pulpit.
The traditional depiction of Christs burial commences after the prescribed liturgy and is now a simplified form. In the middle of the raised sanctuary a huge cross (about 15 feet high) with the bare figure of the crucified Christ in all ignominy. The black backdrop represents the sky with the sun,moon and stars. As the preacher solemnly proclaims the death of Christ on the cross in a high pitched tone from the pulpit, there is loud sound of dramatic artificial thunder and even flashes of lightening; the stars are shown to fall from the sky while the sun and moon lose their brilliance, as described in the scriptures, the large cross is uncovered edifying the people in awe.
MANGALORE ENACTMENT: At Rosario Cathedral the enactment commences: followers of Christ, representing Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus and others in Jewish attire; carrying ladders, tools, linen and a flower bedecked wooden cradle for the ’body’, approach the Crucifixion scene from the front door with slow reverent steps along the aisle to the raised sanctum. The men in this group are drawn from old resident artisan families of the area.
The ladders are placed on the either sides of the cross and slowly two followers ascend and with deliberate movements first remove the crown of thorns. After the body is secured with linen, the large nails driven into the hands and feet are gradually removed. Supported by the linen cloth and the mourners, the body is reverently brought down and placed in the flower bedecked cradle. The flowers used are generally local ’Jasmine’ (Mallige) in good quantity brought in by devotees, the fragrance is something the human memory remembers for long. With devotion and respect the symbolic ’body’ is taken in a short procession in the vicinity of the church. Finally, it is placed in the artificial "Sepulchre". The dramatic traditional depiction which at one time was observed in all churches in the region comes to an end. Perhaps such enactments are visible elsewhere in India, in different forms outside church rituals. Not only do these depictions have a memorable place in the minds but have also serve to touch lives. With newer technologies taking over, the role of old enactments of the natural and super-natural is taking new forms now and the future is sure to be different.