Christianity: What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is usually spent in quiet contemplation and prayer, with the main ceremonies of ‘Way of the Cross’ and ‘Passion of Lord Jesus Christ’ held at 4 pm, the time of the original crucifixion.

One of the most important festivals observed by Christians all over the world is Good Friday. It is a solemn day mourning the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. Good Friday is also known as Great Friday, Holy Friday or Black Friday, many Christians spend the day fasting as it is a day of mourning and penance.

The story behind Good Friday

According to Gospel, Jesus Christ was found guilty of proclaiming himself to be the King of Jews. This led to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane when one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, betrayed him and guided the temple guards to Christ.

Following his arrest, he was taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas. There he was interrogated and conflicting testimony against Christ was brought forward by many witnesses, to which Jesus Christ answered nothing. According to the books, the high priest finally said, “I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?” Jesus answered ambiguously and said, “You have said it, and in time you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty, coming on the clouds of Heaven.”

Annoyed by his response, the head priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy and was sentenced to crucifixion.

Filipino penitent Ruben Enaje, center, is nailed to the cross for the 29th time during Good Friday rituals on April 3, 2015 at Cutud, Pampanga province, northern Philippines. (Source: AP photo)

It is said that the following morning, Jesus was brought to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king. Pilate questioned him and told the assembly that there was no basis for sentencing. And on learning that he was from Galilee, Pilate referred the case to the ruler of Galilee, King Herod. When Herod again interrogated Jesus about the charges he received no answer. Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. When neither of them found him guilty he presented the matter before the crowd and head priest. Ultimately resolving that Jesus be whipped and released.

However, under the guidance of the head priest, the crowd demanded his crucifixion as he did not say anything against the charges. Thus, it is said that Christ willingly suffered and died by crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for ‘our’ sins. Significantly, because of this sacrifice through his crucifixion, commemorated on this day, the Divine Liturgy (the sacrifice of bread and wine) is never celebrated on Great Friday. In the Orthodox tradition, the cross is removed from the church sanctuary, and the congregation observes a service that focuses on his burial in the tomb.

How do various churches observe this special day?

With a subdued service at the church, Christ’s death is remembered with solemn hymns, prayers of thanksgiving. The ceremony is sombre and priests and deacons wear black vestments on this day. The altar and the pulpit are bare and it must be noted no candles are lit. Many Good Friday services end with the church bell ringing 33 times for each year of Jesus Christ’s earthly life.

In the Latin Church, a fast day is understood as having only one full meal and two collations (a smaller repast, the two of which together do not equal the one full meal). Many also abstain from eating meat on this day.

The Methodist Church commemorates Good Friday too with fasting, as well as a service of worship, often based on the Seven Last Words from the Cross. The Protestant communities also hold special services on this holy day.

For Christians, the day is crucial as ever since Jesus Christ died and was raised, they believe that the cross and resurrection of Jesus to be the decisive turning point for all creation.

Thus the day is of supreme importance to the people following the faith and the word of God through his son Jesus Christ. Now read how the holy date of Easter Sunday is determined every year here.

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