There is every reason to believe that these solemn prayers in our Good Friday service date back at least to the time of John Cassian and St. Jerome. Very possibly they formed an almost invariable adjunct to the three lessons and the psalmi responsorii, of which, as was said above, the non-liturgical synaxes mainly consisted. In the middle ages I think that they still survived in our English churches in the prayers known as the bidding prayers, and in France in the prieres du prone. 1 But although they must thus have been an almost, daily feature in the life of the Christians of the fourth century, it is only on this one occasion in the whole year that they are heard in our churches now. Probably the apparently meaningless Oremus, which is said in the Mass before the antiphon called the Offertory, marks the place where once they stood.
THE ADORATION OF THE CROSS
After the solemn prayers the next feature which meets us in the morning office of Good Friday is the rite which in the Latin books is described as adoratio crucis, but which amongst our English forefathers was known as the creeping to the cross. There is not, I think, any sufficient reason for dwelling upon the preliminary ceremonies with which that most impressive function is introduced. I content myself with reproducing the rubrics in the Holy Week book, which sufficiently explain the details of what is done. After reading the foregoing prayers the priest puts off his chasuble, and taking down the cross, covered with a veil, from the altar, he goes with the deacon and subdeacon to the Epistle corner of the altar, where he uncovers the top of it, and shows it to the people, singing with the deacon and subdeacon the following Anthem :
Ant. Ecce lignum crucis
in quo salus mundi pependit.
Ant. Behold the wood of the cross, on which
hung the salvation of the world.
To which the choir, prostrate on the ground, answer :
Venite, adoremus. Come, let us adore.
From thence the priest proceeds again to the Epistle corner, where he uncovers the right arm of the cross, singing a second time, in a higher key,
Ecce lignum, etc.,
as before. Lastly, he goes to the middle of the altar, and uncovers the whole cross, singing a third time, still higher,
Ecce lignum, etc.
After which he carries it to a place prepared before the altar, where himself first kisses it, and then all the clergy and laity, two and two, kneeling thrice on both knees, and kissing the feet of the crucifix. During this ceremony two chanters in the middle of the choir sing the following verses, wherein the Redeemer of the world is represented as reproaching the Jews for their ingratitude..
POPULE meus quid feci tibi ?
aut in quo contristavi te ?
V. Quia eduxi te de terra Egypti:
parasti crucem Salvatori tuo.
parasti crucem Salvatori tuo.
My people, what have I done to thee ?
in what have I grieved thee?
V. Because I brought thee out of the land of Egypt:
Thou hast prepared a cross for thy Saviour