Since the first century, Fridays have been a day of special devotion and discipline in Christian tradition. You can see this spelled out in the Didache – Wednesday and Friday are put forth as the two normal weekly fast days for Christians, as opposed to the Jewish Monday and Thursday. The Prayer Book tradition receives, upholds, and passes along to us the practice of a regular Friday fast with few exceptions. (Modern prayer books like the 2019 tend to be pretty soft on this this point, but if the 1662 is our liturgical standard, we should take note that the modern language “day of special discipline” really ought to be understood as “fast day”.)
The particular reason for Friday to be one of the regular fast days (or the primary one, as Wednesday seems to be seen as a ‘lesser’ fast than Friday) is linked to why we worship together on Sundays: as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on the Lord’s Day, we observe the death of our Lord with a fast on Friday. It is the part of the weekly rhythm of the Christian spiritual life: fasting and penitence upon our Lord’s death, sabbath rest on the day of his repose, and gathering with joy to worship the risen Lord on his resurrection day.
Imagine if that’s what you thought of first when someone mentioned “the weekend”. Wow.
Anyway, what I thought might be nice to observe together today is one of the Collects for Evening Prayer that is suggested for Fridays. This is not one of the historic Daily Office Collects, but an addition in the 1979 Prayer Book that has been retained in the 2019. You don’t have to use this Collect on Fridays; the rubrics allow you to stick with the traditional two (for Peace and for Aid Against Perils) if you like. But the prayer suggested for Friday is very appropriate for the penitential tenor of this day of the week.
A COLLECT FOR FAITH
Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.
In the scheme of “every Sunday an Easter” and “every Friday a Good Friday”, this prayer directs us right to the death of Christ, celebrating the victory Jesus wrought thereby, referencing Hosea 13:14 and/or 1 Corinthians 15:56. We then turn to the reality of our own death – we pray that we would die a “peaceful” (that is, prepared-for and accepting) death, faithfully following Jesus through death toward our own resurrection unto glory. It is an eschatological prayer, looking ahead to the end of all things, through and beyond even death itself.
Is this prayer traditional? Not strictly speaking; only 40 years of the past 470 have seen this prayer in the Office. But is this prayer appropriate? Absolutely.