Good Friday is a famous Christian festival which is celebrated on the Friday before Easter Sunday which is celebrated in March –April to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ who sacrificed on the cross for the sake of entire humanity.
There are many theories as to why the day that remembers Jesus’ death on the cross is known as Good Friday. One school of thought is that Good Friday stems from the words “God’s Friday”, while others interpret “good” in the sense of “observed as holy”. Many Orthodox Christians call the day Great Friday. The day is also known as Black Friday or Sorrowful Friday, as well as Long Friday.
As early as the first century, the Church set aside every Friday as a special day of prayer and fasting. It was not until the fourth century, however, that the Church began observing the Friday before Easter as the day associated with the crucifixion of Christ. First called Holy or Great Friday by the Greek Church, the name “Good Friday” was adopted by the Roman Church around the sixth or seventh century.
There are two possible origins for the name “Good Friday”. The first may have come from the Gallican Church in Gaul (modern-day France and Germany). The name “Gute Freitag” is Germanic in origin and literally means “good” or “holy” Friday. The second possibility is a variation on the name “God’s Friday,” where the word “good” was used to replace the word “God,” which was often viewed as too holy to be spoken aloud.
Good Friday rituals and traditions are distinct from every other Church observance. They add to Good Friday’s significance. The ceremony is sombre, with priests and deacons dressing in black vestments. The pulpit and the altar are bare; no candles are lit. The purpose behind the solemn presentation is to create an awareness of grief over the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son. Many churches hold special services on Good Friday evening to commemorate this important day.
Legend, and Rituals:
According to Christian legend, Jesus, a Nazarene, was considered by many to be the Son of God. Some high officials and Jewish priests felt that he was trying to usurp their authority by misleading the people. They formed a plot against Jesus with the help of one of his apostles, named Judas. Finding him guilty on all counts, they presented Him before the Roman Governor, who saw no reason to condemn him. But the priests were adamant. They insisted that it was his teachings which were responsible for all the riots in the city of Judea and they demanded for his crucifixion.
Good Friday commemorates the arrest (since the Jewish custom of counting days from sundown to sundown it was already Friday), trial, torture, crucifixion, suffering (passion), death and burial of Jesus the Nazarene. Marked with prayers, fasts and penance, Good Friday is a day of contrition, repentance and reflection. There are a variety of customs, practices and services of worship for Good Friday, all aimed at allowing worshipers to experience some sense of the pain and humiliation experienced by Jesus, and ending in the journey to the cross.
Jesus is believed to have died on the cross at 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Good Friday. A cross, symbolic of the one on which Jesus was crucified, is unveiled in many churches. Jesus is said to have rose from his grave on the following Sunday, which is celebrated as Easter.
- The rituals for Good Friday commence on the preceding Thursday. A feast symbolizing the last supper of Jesus is held on Thursday night. The end of this meal marks the beginning of the fast for Easter. In some churches, mourners wearing black move in a procession and a ceremonial burial takes place.
- Good Friday has been observed since about 100 C. E. Many churches now have mourning services from noon until 3:00 p.m. to symbolize Jesus’ last hours on the cross. Some congregations also re-enact Jesus’ procession to the cross in a ritual known as Stations of the Cross.
- Another common service for Good Friday is Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows” or “darkness”) Sometimes this term is applied generally to all church services on the last three days of Holy week. More specifically, however, it is used of the Service of Darkness or Service of Shadows, usually held in the evening of Good Friday. It is usually characterized by a series of Scripture readings and meditation done in stages while lights and/or candles are gradually extinguished to symbolize the growing darkness not only of Jesus’ death but of hopelessness in the world without God. The service ends in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle, carried out of the sanctuary, symbolizing the death of Jesus. Often the service concludes with a loud noise symbolizing the closing of Jesus’ tomb. The worshippers then leave in silence.
- Depending on how services are conducted on this day, all pictures, statutes, and the cross are covered in black mourning cloth. Altar candles are black and extinguished. The chancel and altar coverings are also replaced with black. They are left this way through Saturday, but are always replaced with white before sunrise on Sunday.
- Good Friday is not a day of celebration but a day of mourning, both for the death of Jesus the Nazarene, and for the sins of the world that his death represents.