Good Friday is a Christian holiday that denotes the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified. According to Christian belief, the event occurred between AD 30 and AD 33. Good Friday occurs during the Holy Week.
It is a part of the Paschal Triduum (the days around Easter) and falls on Friday that comes before Easter Sunday. During the Holy Week, Good Friday falls after the Maundy Thursday’s Last Supper and just before Easter Sunday.
It is celebrated as a solemn day of fasting and somber processions. It is also sometimes called Black Friday.
According to most biblical accounts, royal soldiers were guided by Christ’s disciple Judas Iscariot and managed to arrest him in the famed Garden of Gethsemane.
This is an urban garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is the place where Jesus was arrested the night before his crucifixion.
Judas received money for betraying Christ and informed the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they should arrest.
Conflicting witness accounts were provided by different witnesses, which led to Jesus being presented before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Upon further questioning, Jesus was sent to Herod after being found to belong to Galilee.
He was promptly returned by Herod, the ruler of Galilee, and was sentenced to be whipped, and then released. However, the crowd demanded that Christ be crucified.
The sentence written was “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Jesus carried his own cross to the site of his execution. He was crucified along with two others. After an agonizing six hours, he finally succumbed to his injuries and died.
His Christian followers began to observe this day every year after the crucifixion took place. Over the centuries, the observance of Good Friday has undergone several changes both in custom and tradition.
Since Jewish tradition dictates that Friday begins at sundown on Thursday, Good Friday observance begins on Thursday night with the Matins of the Twelve Passion Gospels.
These are twelve readings from all four Gospels recounting the events from the Last Supper until the crucifixion of Jesus and his burial.
Some churches even have a candelabrum containing twelve candles. After each Gospel reading, one candle is extinguished.
During the service, everyone comes forward to kiss the feet of Christ’s sculpture on the cross. The service ends only with a special dismissal from the priest.
Greek Catholics also celebrate Good Friday often under the name of ‘Great Friday’ or ‘Holy Friday’. The Divine Liturgy (the sacrifice of bread and wine) is never celebrated on this day unless it coincides with the Great Feast of the Annunciation.
The latter also referred to as the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the celebration of the announcement of the arrival of Christ to Mary by the Angel Gabriel.
The clergy, in observance of Good Friday, discard their traditional purple or red robes (a customary practice throughout Great Lent) and exchange them for black vestments. All the hangings inside the church(s) are also changed to black in observance of Good Friday.
Public readings of the Psalms and the Gospels take place to help the faithful revisit the events of that day.
People also sing hymns in honor of Christ and about his death. Devout followers of Christianity also keep a fast on this day (known as the Black Fast).
Throughout the day, adult Byzantine Christians are expected to abstain from all food and drink as long as their health permits.
The Roman Catholic Church recognizes Good Friday and Holy Saturday as days of obligatory fasting. There is no celebration of Good Friday Mass between Thursday night (also known as The Lord’s Supper) and Easter Vigil.
However, liturgy is certainly performed. The Easter Vigil is the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The Eucharist is distributed to the faithful, and can also be taken to those who may be too sick (or old) to attend the service.
This usually takes place in the afternoon and it is permitted to celebrate the liturgy earlier. After the Lord’s Supper, candlesticks, altar clothes, and crosses are all removed to leave it bare.
These are later returned in-ceremony on Easter Sunday. No bells are rung until the Easter Vigil takes place.
There are several other customs that are observed on Good Friday by various different Christian communities across the globe.
The Anglican community has an assortment of services, which includes a three-hour service consisting of Matins, Anti-communion, and Evensong.
In the Lutheran Church, Good Friday was one of the most important religious holidays, between the 16th to the 20th centuries.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, there were no restrictions on celebrating the Eucharist on Good Friday – in fact, it was a prime day to be receiving it. Most recently, Lutheran liturgical practice has included Good Friday as a part of three other days: Monday, Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil.
Many Christians also mark this day by participating or watching processions meant to replicate the journey taken by Christ through the streets of Jerusalem, as he carried his cross to the site of his execution. The most famous of these are Rome’s Way of the Cross and the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.
Other associated customs around the globe with respect to Good Friday include strict adherence to the Black Fast (where only water can be consumed) and restricted handouts of bread, herbs, and salt. In countries such as Canada, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, Good Friday is an official holiday.
The occasion has been subject to some criticism from non-observers and other non-denominational churches. Some people oppose Good Friday, regarding it as a papist tradition, and instead observe the Crucifixion on Wednesday in order to coincide with the Jewish sacrifice Passover.