Jesus Christ’s first prayer after being nailed to the cross was a plea for forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” In a way, it’s a summary of what Christians believe.
Jesus poured out his blood, as we say at the consecration of the Mass, for the forgiveness of sins. His words from the cross seem directed toward the Roman soldiers and political leaders who crucified him. But he had equally in mind the rest of us “who, though sinners, hope in (God’s) abundant mercies.”
On March 30 (Friday), Christians around the world commemorate with prayers and fasting the death of Jesus Christ, three days before the arrival of Easter and the hope of the Resurrection.
Good Friday is a day to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Mount Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum (the three days is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday) on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday
The church calls on believers to solemnly reflect on the pain and suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, particularly beginning at 3 pm when it is believed Jesus died as he hung on a cross outside the city of Jerusalem.
History of Good 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 4th 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 6th or 7th century.
The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from “God’s Friday” (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. The Catholic Encyclopedia, first published in 1907, states that the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons and is referred to as such in modern Danish.
It is also argued that the name is based on a medieval use of the word good where it meant “holy.” Thus “Good Friday” would have come from “Holy Friday,” the same way we have Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.
Rituals and traditions
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 to commemorate this important day.
On Good Friday, the entire church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won redemption for them. In the solemn ceremonies of Good Friday, in the Adoration of the Cross, in the chanting of the ‘Reproaches,’ in the reading of the Passion, and in receiving the pre-consecrated Host, the community members unite themselves to their Saviour, and contemplate one’s own death to sin in the death of Christ.
In the 4th century the Apostolic Constitutions described this day as a ‘day of mourning, not a day of festive joy,’ and this day was called the ‘Pasch (passage) of the Crucifixion.’
The liturgical observance of this day of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion and death evidently have been in existence from the earliest days of the church. No Mass is celebrated on this day, but the service of Good Friday is called the Mass of the Presanctified because Communion (in the species of bread) which had already been consecrated on Holy Thursday is given to the people.
Traditionally, the organ is silent from Holy Thursday until the Alleluia at the Easter Vigil, as are all bells or other instruments, the only music during this period being the unaccompanied chant.
The omission of the prayer of consecration deepens Christians’ sense of loss because Mass throughout the year reminds the community of Christ’s triumph over death, the source of joy and blessing. The desolate quality of the rites of this day reminds us of Christ’s humiliation and suffering during his Passion. The parts of the Good Friday service correspond to the divisions of Mass. -NGB