In honour of Good Friday, I have posted Aelfwine’s ‘Office in Honour of the Holy Cross‘ under Classic Christian Texts on the sidebar to the right. You will find there the entire office translated and adapted slightly for ease of use by groups of moderns, making some of the more antiphonal aspects of this mediaeval service more apparent and easily used, as well as typing out in full things for which the ms (as reproduced in a ‘diplomatic’ edition for the Henry Bradshaw Society in 2009) merely gives the first few words or line.
Thus, the entirety of Psalms 104 and 118 are typed out, as are the verses required from Psalm 119, rather than sending the worshipper to a Psalter or a Bible. So it goes for the Magnificat, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed (although I used the traditional wording, not my own translation) and the hymn ‘Vexilla Regis’ by Venantius Fortunatus (6th-century hymnographer).
I like this little office. We are reminded of how the centre of so much Christian worship is the Psalter, not just in the entire Psalms that form the bulk of the text but also in the versicles scattered throughout, themselves drawn from Psalms. Central to our worship of God is God’s word written, which we reflect back to Him as we commemorate his great deeds in history.
And on the Cross transpired one of God’s greatest deeds (only two others can compete: the Incarnation and the Resurrection). He, the omnipotent and immortal, died. ‘Tis mystery all, as Charles Wesley says. The Short Lesson is 1 Peter 2:24:
Christ Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. (NKJV)
And the words not drawn from scripture all celebrate this mystery, such as:
O admirable Cross, you alone are escape from wounds, restoration of health.
Over all the branches of the cedars you alone are higher, where the life of the world hung, where Christ triumphed and death conquered death. Alleluia!
I hope and pray in these few short days before Easter, and even after we celebrate the Resurrection of our King and God, you may take the time to pray through this little office yourself, celebrating our Lord’s precious death.