Good Friday Liturgy


The churches I have attended over the years for Good Friday always used a Crucifix for the Adoration. The parish I am in now did use a Crucifix and we would all process up to kiss it. But for the past few years however, they have used a plain wooden cross with no Christ figure on it. This surprised me and I find it disturbing not to have the Crucifix for Adoration. But I don’t know if this is now common practice to use a Cross without the Christ figure and not a Crucifix.

Can anyone tell me what is the correct liturgical practice for this Good Friday liturgy?


Several of the parishes I’ve attended over the years used only a cross, my present parish included. We went back to a crucifix for a few years but it was back to a 7’x3’ tall cross this year. I know several people have been quite distressed by a bare cross for veneration.


“Behold the WOOD of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world. Come, let us worship.” Venerating the bare cross always seemed right to me. The Passion of St. John has been read, Jesus is in the tomb, the cross is empty.


In Catholic liturgical practices (in the West) there is almost no such thing as a cross without the image of the crucified Christ. Whenever the word is used, it always implies a crucifix, not a bare cross; at least within the context of describing an actual liturgical object (of course, in a different context like “make the sign of the cross” or using a cross-form in art that’s different).

The problem is that English has 2 words: cross (without the body) and crucifix (with) while in Latin, there is no such distinction. Crucis almost always means a cross with the corpus. In English, we expect the distinction, but it just doesn’t exist in Latin.

The bottom line is that on Good Friday, a crucifix, i.e. a cross with the image of the crucified Christ, should be used, not a plain cross.


I’ve always thought so…but in the Sacramentary is says “Veneration of the Cross”. One would think they would be more specific. :shrug: I’ve been in parishes that used a crucifix, but in latter years, it’s always been a bare cross. For our parish, we don’t own a crucifix that is not permanently affixed. So the priest has commissioned a cross that is only used for this. A parishioner who does woodworking was asked to make it.


Isn’t it veneration of the CROSS not of Jesus crucified in this liturgy.

If so, it seems more correct to venerate a bare cross.

(This is the custom in my parish despite a huge life size crucifix in the front of the church.)

It would be like venerating a relic of the true cross, you would not turn it into a crucifix.


That’s why I said it can be a problem. Yes, it says “Veneration of the Cross” but it means “a cross with the image of the crucified Christ” because that’s what the word (almost) always means in Latin.

We can find countless examples of crosses without the Corpus on them in Christian art. But when speaking liturgically, the word always means crucifix.

As a parallel example, there was some confusion in recent translations of the GIRM because the Latin only says “crucis” but the Holy See clarified (in response to questions) that the word means what we would call “crucifix” and so the simple “crucis” is translated into English as “a cross with an image of the crucified Christ” (or something similar).

Again, the point is that liturgically speaking, whenever the Church says “cross” the intent there is an image of the crucified Christ.


I attended the Good Friday liturgy for the first time at our church in 2013.
The cross was bare. I felt foolish (and disappointed) kissing a bare cross, so I didn’t go this year.


From zenit

ROME, 3 MAY 2011 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university…

Finally, while I personally hold that it is preferable to use a cross with a corpus, the possibility of using a simple cross is contemplated in several documents published by the U.S. bishops’ conference. I have not found anything in universal law that could decide the question one way or the other, although my own interpretation is that when the liturgical documents mention a cross they almost invariably mean a crucifix.

Follow-up: Limited Veneration of the Cross [5-17-2011]
A reader recently posed the following question: “I was watching on TV the Good Friday ceremony and to my surprise I noticed that the celebrant was using just a wooden cross without the effigy of Christ on it for the veneration of the cross. We do sing, ‘This is the wood of the cross on which our Savior died.’ So is this in keeping with the liturgy?”
The May 3 article touched upon this theme: “[W]hile I personally hold that it is preferable to use a cross with a corpus, the possibility of using a simple cross is contemplated in several documents published by the U.S. bishops’ conference. I have not found anything in universal law that could decide the question one way or the other, although my own interpretation is that when the liturgical documents mention a cross they almost invariably mean a crucifix.”

Looks like the * almost * always means this liturgy can go either way.


Our Pastors have always made the distinction that “Crucis” means cross with the corpus.
We have always had a Crucifix for adoration.


Perhaps I’m going to sound like Jimmy Akin a bit, but I’d like to have the original docs in Latin explained to me.

We know that a cross (crux) is made of two parts:
stirpes (vertical beam), if used alone is a crux simplex,
patibulum (cross beam),
And together these make one of several types of crucis.

Add a corpus to make a crucifixus.

What documents parse crux from crucifixus?


In our diocese we always use one cross without a corpus. We are venerating the “wood of the cross,” not the body of Jesus. After Jesus died he was taken down from the cross, and all that was left was the cross. When the corpus is on the cross, people are focusing on the body of Jesus, they kiss the feet or hands, etc. But he is taken down from the cross. We had just heard in the Gospel that his body was taken away and buried. It only makes sense to adore the bare cross.

That cross is, as St. Paul wrote, “a stumbling cross for Jews and foolishness for Gentiles.” We adore the instrument of his death, for that is truly his “throne.”


Thank you. That was always my experience. In fact when I was growing up the only people who ever used a bare cross were the Protestant churches. The Catholic churches always used a Crucifix for any liturgy. I am disappointed that our church has gone over to a bare cross for Adoration.

The idea that Jesus is in the tomb [and hence the bare Cross] makes no sense to me. We are adoring His sacrifice - we are adoring His death on the Cross. We are not adoring the Cross alone as I understand it.


The words are “behold the wood of the cross, upon which (past tense) hung the salvation of the world.” If the corpus is on the cross these words make no sense.


That’s just not true. You’re misunderstanding the use of the past tense. We all know that 2000 years ago, Christ was taken down from the cross, so the use of the past tense doesn’t indicate anything liturgical.

If that were true, then we would never have a cross with the body on it, but always a bare cross (as the Protestants [mostly] do). But we know that we’ve been debating this for nearly 500 years, and the Church still uses crucifixes. That issue has been long settled.


When the Catholic Church uses the word cross in a liturgical context, in reference to an object as opposed to just a shape, the word means a cross with the image of the crucified Christ.

If the intention was to use a plain cross, without the body, then it would be necessary to explicitly state this, because the Church would need to specify that this use of the word cross is different then when it’s otherwise used.

Asking if the word “cross” means with or without the corpus is like asking if the word “automobile” means with or without wheels.


Hi Father,
But isn’t Joannm referring to a specific action at a particular time in the Triduum, and not a universal practice of the Church? Everyone “gets” what the Crucifix means to us. But in this particular timeframe, I also think that it’s more of a moment in time when, for us we did not have access to Jesus. He was gone. The tabernacle is empty with the door standing open. It’s a desolate feeling and it makes the gravity of that day more evident. We are venerating the wood on which Christ died…like we would save a beloved object of a person who just passed…because at that point in the spectrum, that’s all we have.
We don’t learn of His glorious Resurrection until many hours later. If I had access to the true cross, I would most certainly venerate it. It does not mean that I have somehow forgotten that Jesus was crucified.
Just trying to make sense of why the Church says “This is the wood of the cross”. Seems like the phrase would be “This is the Body of Christ, who suffered and died for you” if it were about the Sacred Corpus. :shrug:
Thanks for any additional insight…clarification…


That’s funny. I get what you’re saying…but I find it hard to wrap my head around a Church that is ever so precise in her meaning and wording not taking the time to make a distinction between “crucifix” and “cross”. Especially in light of what other faiths use. We are particular about things. REALLY particular. Everything has a distinct purpose and name. Except “crosses?” :confused:
As you can see, I’m really confused about this. I don’t have a dog in the fight per se…whatever my pastor wants, we do. But my curiosity is piqued now…:slight_smile: Interesting discussion…


It makes me a bit uncomfortable when Catholics focus on a cross representing Protestantism and a crucifix representing Catholicism. Per Brother Jay,

If you observe very closely, the friars who wore side rosaries, which was not mandatory, never wore a crucifix. One always wore a cross without a corpus. The idea that a cross without a corpus is Protestant is simply not true. The cross without a corpus was introduced by St. Francis in 1209. It was not until the 1500 that the Protestants would adopt this custom. That’s another of those comments that we Franciscans hear people make and we scratch our heads wondering where people got that idea that this is a Protestant notion.

The truth is that Franciscans had more influence over Protestantism, than Protestantism over post Vatican II Catholicism. But don’t tell the Protestants that. Keep it our secrete.

He has posted that repeatedly in the forum.


I can see the value of what you mean. But at the same time, we cannot try to put too literal a timeline into the Good Friday services. If we wanted to do that, we would have to read each individual part of the Gospel to make it correspond to each liturgical moment. We just don’t do that.

This isn’t about how individual persons feel the Liturgy either should or should-not be done. The Church tells us what type of cross is to be used. As I’ve posted several times now, and as Fr McN---- also explained in the article quoted a bit earlier, when the Church says “cross” that word means crucifix. This same question arose with regard to what type of cross is to be used throughout the year and the answer from Rome was (in my own words, of course) “when we say cross, we mean what we always mean, a cross with an image of the crucified Christ.”

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