Non Solum: Celebrant Adoring Cross without Shoes

A reader just sent in this question about the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday by the priest celebrant. We could put it in the chute for a year from now, but let’s take it up now instead, while it’s all fresh in our memory.  

Missing Rubric?

Reviewing Good Friday’s Liturgy I noticed that the rubric says “the Priest Celebrant alone approaches (the Cross), with the chasuble and his shoes removed” #18. But it doesn’t follow up with a rubric to put shoes and chasuble back on. My question: would it be best to re-vest immediately after adoring the Cross? Or…? Also, am I correct in presuming this means the stole stays on? Finally, “if appropriate” means this is not mandatory. But does it apply to shoes only or shoes and chasuble? I have never seen this done. Does anyone have any experience with this? I guess it is a good thing that our diocese no longer forbids loafers.


  1. The Ceremonial of Bishops is a little more detailed:
    “322 For the veneration of the cross, the bishop lays aside miter, chasuble, and, as circumstances suggest, his shoes, and, with head uncovered, goes first to the cross. He kneels before it and kisses it. He then retums to the chair (cathedra), where he puts on his shoes and the chasuble, then sits without the miter.’

    And just for interest’s sake, the Dominican Proper (published in 1985) offers a revision of our traditional rite of adoration of the cross; in part, it reads:
    “23. Then the Adoration of the Holy Cross takes place in this manner: if it is convenient, all first remove their shoes and one after the other approach the Cross, as if in a procession. They prostrate themselves completely and kiss the Cross only once without delay; or, if the two Priests stand to offer the Cross to be kissed, all make the expected reverence to the Cross by genuflecting and kissing the Cross. If the friars wish, before they prostrate themselves completely to kiss the Cross, they may genuflect twice according to the custom that has been handed on.”

    Here in Papua New Guinea at the seminary I noticed that quite a few of the religious present (including myself) removed their shoes or sandals; the celebrant, as a matter of interest, was barefoot for the entire ceremony – not so unusual here. In Australia, though, I have not seen shoes removed for many years.

    1. @Ben Yanke – comment #2:
      I think the optionitis is rooted in the teachings of the Church in SC 37-40. That’s where the magisterium most decisively parted with the notion of universal ritual uniformity. That bothers some people – but it’s Church teaching. It’s tied to all sorts of Vatican II understandings about ecclesiology and even about nature and grace and how God relates to people in their given historical context.

  2. “Optionitis” falls under the category of a snide remark. The pertinent documents have made it clear to most that unity does not require strict uniformity. The GIRM and the rubrics provide church leaders with the structure of the sacramental celebrations. In some cultures, the removal of shoes prior to venerating the cross might be considered a strict requirement. In the predominant American culture that would be considered, I would think, a pious option. There are only two circumstances of which I am aware in which people remove shoes and socks during the service: Those having their feet washed on Holy Thursday, and those being initiated at the Easter Vigil. I wonder what Ben would require of all of us so that we could have the taint of optionitis lifted.

  3. For completeness, here is rubric 18 in its entirety:

    18. For the Adoration of the Cross, first the Priest Celebrant alone approaches, with the chasuble and his shoes removed, if appropriate. Then the clergy, the lay ministers, and the faithful approach, moving as if in procession, and showing reverence to the Cross by a simple genuflection or by some other sign appropriate to the usage of the region, for example, by kissing the Cross.

    And here is the Latin:

    18. Ad adorationem Crucis, primus accedit solus sacerdos celebrans, casula et calceamentis, pro opportunitate, depositis. Deinde procedunt clerus, ministri laici et fideles, quasi processionaliter transeuntes, et reverentiam Cruci exhibentes per simplicem genuflexionem vel aliud signum aptum secundum usum regionis, v. gr. Crucem osculando.

  4. And note that the gesture of reverence to the Cross for clergy, ministers and laity is genuflexion or kissing the cross, but not both. This has been the case since 1970, in fact, but people have not adverted to it yet.

    The number of times I have seen people on their way to kiss the cross suddenly bobbing down in a genuflexion so that the person behind them in the line trips over their feet….literally. Make up your mind which you are going to do! If genuflexion, genuflect when you get to the cross and not before, and then don’t feel that you have to kiss it. If kissing, don’t genuflect first.

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #6:
      Careful now; you’re starting to sound like genuflecting and kissing must be reserved to the bishop per 322 of the Ceremonial of Bishops. There will be none of that nonsense, will there, among the benighted PIPS, who really need to get with The Program(TM)….

      Happy Easter to all.

  5. Happy Easter to all!

    I’m inclined to affirm comments #4 and #7.

    Anti-optionism is a poor man’s attempt at unity through imposition of cheap uniformity.

    My parish is fortunate to have ample space to permit a variety of veneration options. I think my pastor was slightly dismayed at the time people took on Friday, but there was even room for a lay person to take her or his shoes off and venerate–though I didn’t notice anyone who did.

    On second thought, perhaps the option of the 1570/1962 Missal should be retired. The old rites of Triduum simply pale in comparison to the new. 2024 would be a good target date. One more decade. And done.

  6. I think optionitis is disliked because it usually ends up being about the options the priest personally likes best rather than an expression of the community or surrounding culture. The priest should ideally serve the community through the options he chooses, but this often isn’t the case.

    Also, regarding kneeling and kissing the cross: Due to time, I attended an Episcopal Good Friday service. Virtually everyone knelt before the cross to venerate it, with some kissing either before or after doing so. Nobody tripped over anyone else becsuse the line was kept sufficiently far away from the cross with an usher handy to help the elderly get back up.

    And Happy Easter to all.

    1. @Jack Wayne – comment #9:

      Oh, I agree, there are a lot of ways this could go wrong. There are risks of misuse of power, and also of misunderstandings with people having bad ideas. I tend to favor limiting the damage and reducing the ways it could go wrong. But I don’t think it’s viable to go back to a preconciliar rigidity. We have to live with the options of the reformed liturgy, and with the call of SC 37-40 for flexible adaptation, and keep working for the spread of the true liturgical spirit among all those making decisions. Maybe this will lead to good creativity and vitality, even if that means there will be a bit of silliness (I hope not too much) here and there.

      My own bias, and what I find spiritually nourishing, is monastic liturgy – e.g. our Office where not one word is left to variation (I’m not exaggerating). But my theology of inculturation doesn’t allow me to impose that onto the whole Church.

      Happy Easter everyone!


      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #10:

        But does every Benedictine pronounce “impious” the same way?

        I, too, appreciate the stability of the monastic offices, and the particular sort of freedom that brings to prayer for the community and the individual. On days when I never know what will walk in my office, there is a great relief in knowing how the Office will play each morning.

        But I also appreciate the number of options offered in the Liturgy of the Hours, enabling them to be trimmed and tucked to fit to various needs and circumstances. Options are mostly definitely an invitation to prayerfully discern what the needs of a community of prayer are in a particular liturgy (the answer to which may be, to paraphrase Evagrius, don’t change things up, i.e. invariance!)

        Happy Easter!

  7. Some parishes around here invite all of the ministers to be barefoot the entire liturgy (cantor, lectors, etc.) All the more power to them!

    As for chasubles: both my pastor and I agree, it just doesn’t make sense on Good Friday, and we go without it. We used to skip the Communion Rite until 5 years ago when the bishop’s office “cracked down” on the dozen(s) parishes in our US West Coast diocese.

    1. @Chuck Middendorf – comment #11:
      Your pastor goes without the chasuble for the whole liturgy, or goes without taking it off, or goes without putting it back on? Just curious, I find your statement ambiguous.

      And what was the rationale for skipping the Communion Rite?

      1. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #15:

        And what was the rationale for skipping the Communion Rite?

        A lot of parishes did this back in the 1970s and 80s. The rationale was as follows:

        (1) The only person who received Communion on Good Friday for hundreds of years before the 1955 reforms was the presiding priest.
        (2) So Communion for everyone else is only a modern innovation.
        (3) To emphasize the stark austerity of this extraordinary day, we’ll go without Communion, thank you very much. Not even the presider will receive.

        I think parishes where they had taken on board the fact that Communion from the tabernacle was no longer the best thing to do (cf. GIRM 85) were in the forefront of this.

      2. @Paul Inwood – comment #17:
        #1 & #2:

        I take it the Communion Rite of the Good Friday liturgy is NOT optional in the Missal (from 1955 onward). Is that correct?

        If so, why are individual parishes making decisions to alter a part of the liturgy that’s not theirs to alter, especially against the liturgical reform (at least, reform that was accepted/continued in the post-Vatican II Missal)?

        Since Communion is only possible on Good Friday because the Blessed Sacrament is “from the tabernacle” (despite GIRM 85), how is invoking GIRM 85 a reasonable excuse?

        Is Communion for everyone else on Good Friday truly a modern innovation, or is it a restoration of an older practice (like so many elements of the liturgical reform)? And if it is an innovation, does that mean it is without merit and can be disregarded so easily?


        Is that the proper sign value Good Friday should have?

      3. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #18:

        Jeffrey, I’m not making any value judgements, simply reporting what happened and why.

        In response to your last question, the major sign value of Good Friday is the Cross, not Communion. Indeed, the triumph of the Cross (which is why a bare empty Cross for veneration is a better sign than a crucifix with a corpus).

      4. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #15:
        Hi Jeffrey,
        Sorry for any ambiguity. Triduum liturgies and all didn’t allow for longer, thoughtful responses.
        No chasuble put on, ever. Chasuble is the vestment for Mass. There’s no Mass, so thus no chasuble. If we had a red cope, that would be appropriate.

        And Paul Inwood basically summarized why no Communion Rite. Besides all of his points, there’s one other. Good Friday is a day of fasting. Seems odd to me (personally, and I think lots of others) to join in the Eternal Feast on a fast day.

  8. What exactly are the criteria for appropriateness in this particular matter? When would it ever not be appropriate for the celebrant to remove his chasuble and shoes?

  9. Oh-oh! I detect some people knee-jerking because they didn’t know the rules had been relaxed. Probably the same people who will, however, have no problem with the fact that double genuflexions before the Blessed Sacrament exposed also disappeared (in 1973, as a matter of fact).

  10. What is the connection between the topic of this thread and “worship in spirit and truth” ?

    Concentrating on (some)-one’s feet seems to be starting at the wrong end.

  11. I think that looking East will give some answers. The Pre-Sanctified Liturgy (Vespers with a Communion rite) that the Eastern Churches celebrate on the weekdays of the Fast, when the Divine Liturgy is not allowed, due to it’s joyful nature, was brought east from Rome. It is attributed to St. Gregory the Great. The Fathers rightly realized that even though the Divine Liturgy is not allowed during the weekdays of the Fast, the Church nonetheless needs the sustenance of Holy Eucharist to make it through the spiritual fight of the Fast.
    We fast from sin, we fast from what keeps us or distracts us from God. We don’t fast from what gives us life and sustains us, Christ’s Body and Blood. The Good Friday communion rite is the last vestige of that heritage in the Western Church.

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