Q: We have celebrated Good Friday and it brought up a question I had been wanting to ask for a long time. Why is Good Friday not a Holy Day of Obligation? Surely, the fulfilment of God’s work on redemption was an epic event in history worthy of the glory, as the Ascension was. – Anthony Oei, Singapore
A: The Church gives us a list of days and feasts which are liturgically the most important in terms of ranking, and this is found in the Table of Liturgical Days in the General Roman Calendar. It lists the Easter Triduum as the first and most important in terms of eminence.
In an article on the Spirituality of the Seasons, Franciscan priest and liturgist Fr Thomas Richstatter wrote on the need to understand the essential difference between a list of obligations and a list of what is most important.This appeared in an article printed in the St Anthony’s Messenger, April 1995.
In it, Fr Richstatter rightly explained that just because the days of the Triduum are not made obligatory does not mean that they are not important days. They are, and they are eminently important enough to rank at the top of the table of Liturgical Days. The solemnity of Easter, he says, has same kind of preeminence that Sundays have.
When it is understood this way, it is akin to saying that it is a given that these days are so fundamental that one does not need to be reminded of the need to observe these days with a special attentiveness and love.
To give a crude example, it would be akin to the birthday of the patriarch in any household. It is a given that his birthday should automatically be accorded the due reverence he deserves and there should be no need to send a memo to every member of the family that his birthday is to be celebrated with some degree of auspiciousness, and this should be done out of great love for him.
We need to apply this to the celebration of the Triduum.
All the days of the Triduum are just as important, not just Good Friday in isolation. I am wont to believe that the diocese could do with a greater emphasis on liturgical catechesis highlighting their grave importance.
When a matter is understood to have an importance of preeminence, no law is needed. When understanding is lacking, laws, no matter how strict, will often be flouted.
Fr Luke Fong