Good Friday is celebrated by a service combining a number of separate features. We have first the reading of three sets of lessons followed by "bidding prayers". This probably represents a type of aliturgical service of the great antiquity of which more extensive survivals remain in the Gallican and Ambrosian liturgies.
The reading of the whole Passion according to St. John.
There is the "Adoration" of the Cross, equally of great antiquity. With this veneration of the Cross are now associated the Improperia (reproaches) and the hymn Pange lingua gloriosi lauream certaminis. The Improperia are found in the Pontificale of Prudentius, who was Bishop of Troyes from 846 to 861. In the Middle Ages the "creeping to the cross" on Good Friday was a practice that inspired special devotion, and saintly monarchs like St. Louis of France set a conspicuous example of humility in their performance of it.
Finally, the Good Friday service ends with the so-called "Mass of the Presanctified", which is no real sacrifice, but, strictly speaking, only a Communion service. The sacred ministers, wearing their black vestments, go to fetch the consecrated Host preserved at the altar of repose, and as they return to the high altar the choir chants the beautiful hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt, composed by Venantius Fortunatus. The great consecratory prayer of the Canon, with the words of Institution, are entirely omitted.
On Good Friday evening, the church otherwise remains bare and desolate, only the crucifix being unveiled.