Someone asked me this week, "Why do we not celebrate the Holy Eucharist on Good Friday?" It is an astute question. In my experience, many are unaware that Good Friday is one of two days of the year on which our tradition bids us not to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. The other is Holy Saturday (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown).
Prayer Book Episcopalians do not perform the sacrament of the Eucharist on these two days because we understand ourselves to be engaged in proclaiming the gospel in a particularly intense and dramatic pageant which begins with our remembering the Last Supper and ends with our proclaiming the resurrection at the Great Vigil of Easter. On Maundy Thursday we wash each other's feet in response to Jesus' commandment that we love one another. On Good Friday we proclaim the cross, remembering the moment he died for us. On these two days of the pageant, we remember that Jesus the Messiah is not yet risen and exalted, but humiliated.
Of course, Jesus engages us always as the enfleshed Word, but in the Good Friday portion of our three-day pageant, we shine the light on the fact that the enfleshed Word is eternally and simultaneously the exalted One and the humiliated One. That's why we always turn to John's Gospel as we read the passion narrative on Good Friday, for, in John portrait, the Cross is not the triumph of human evil, but God's gracious action. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life" (John 3:16). And that is why we don't celebrate the Eucharist on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. We don't "lift up our hearts" to the risen Lord on these days, because, in our pageantry, the spotlight is on his humiliation on our behalf.
Nonetheless, unlike the first disciples, we know the rest of the story. The Jesus we meet on the Cross is also the exalted One, our risen Lord, and so, after proclaiming the Cross and responding to our Lord with thanksgiving and adoration, many of us commune in the his name, using the sacrament reserved during our recollection of the Last Supper.
We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.