The Veneration of the Cross: A Good Friday Tradition


Good Friday, one of the most solemn days in the Christian liturgical calendar, marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On this day, Catholics around the world engage in various practices to remember Christ’s sacrifice, and among these is the Veneration of the Cross. This practice involves showing reverence to a wooden cross as a physical symbol of the instrument upon which Christ was crucified. Understanding the deeper meaning behind this tradition requires us to look into the Scriptures, the teachings of the Church, and the significance of the cross in the Catholic faith.

What is Veneration?

Before diving into the specific tradition of venerating the cross on Good Friday, let’s first define “veneration.” Veneration is an act of showing deep respect and honor, but it is not the same as worship. In Catholic teaching, worship is due to God alone. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love” (CCC 2096). While Catholics venerate saints, relics, and sacred objects, they don’t worship them.

Biblical Basis for the Cross as a Sacred Symbol

The cross holds immense significance in Christianity, its very shape reminding the faithful of Christ’s sacrifice. The New Testament provides accounts of Christ’s crucifixion. In the Gospel of John, it says: “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

The Apostle Paul also speaks of the cross as a symbol of salvation. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

The Significance of the Cross in Catholic Teaching

The Catechism of the Catholic Church goes further to articulate the importance of the cross, stating, “The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the ‘one mediator between God and men'” (CCC 618). In another section, it says, “The cross is the sign both of Christ himself and of the faith of Christians” (CCC 617). These teachings clarify that the cross is not just a historical instrument of torture but a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice and a sign of the Christian faith.

The Good Friday Tradition: Veneration of the Cross

On Good Friday, the Church focuses on commemorating the Passion and crucifixion of Jesus. The ritual of the Veneration of the Cross is usually a part of the Good Friday Service. During this ceremony, the congregation is invited to come forward and show reverence to the cross by various means such as touching it, kissing it, or bowing before it.

This practice is not an act of idolatry but a form of veneration. The aim is not to venerate the wood itself but what it symbolically represents—the sacrificial love of Christ. This aligns with the Church’s teaching that “In the liturgical celebrations of the Church, the icon is exposed to the veneration of the faithful. By contemplating it, the Christian can increase in the knowledge and love of God” (CCC 1161, paraphrased as the Catechism does not have a direct quote to this effect).

Universal Teaching vs. Theological Opinion

It’s important to differentiate between what is a universal teaching of the Church and what might be considered a theological opinion. The importance of the cross and the practice of its veneration on Good Friday is a universal teaching rooted in Scripture and Tradition. However, the theological interpretations and the extent of the emotions or experiences people have during this practice could vary and might be considered theological opinions.

The Role of the Cross in Everyday Catholic Life

Beyond the specific tradition of Good Friday, the cross plays a significant role in the everyday life of a Catholic. From making the Sign of the Cross in prayer to hanging crosses in homes and churches, the cross is ever-present. It serves as a constant reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love.


The Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday is a deeply rooted tradition in the Catholic Church. It provides the faithful with a tactile and symbolic way to connect with the Passion of Christ. More than just a ritual, it is a spiritual practice supported by biblical teachings and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. By engaging in this venerable tradition, Catholics worldwide join in unity to remember and honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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