Good Friday marks the Friday before the Sunday of Easter, which concludes the Holy Week. In Christianity, it was the day of Jesus Christ’s suffering and eventual death on the cross. People spend the day solemnly, fasting, praying, and repenting in commemoration of the suffering of Christ. Good Friday is a legal holiday in many countries, particularly Western and Anglican ones, as well as in 12 American states.
Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches host special services throughout the day. The Roman Catholic Church fosters a three-hour service that commemorates Jesus’ last words on the cross. The Orthodox Church honors the day with chants and prayers. They draw these hymns from “The Twelve Gospels” which refer to the passion narratives.
When Is Good Friday Observed?
Good Friday, just like Easter, is a flexible holiday due to complex system used for calculating the date. The Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church use different means of calculating the Easter date and, respectively, Good Friday.
Easter is established around the vernal equinox. The result of the calculations is that Easter always falls on the Sunday succeeding the Paschal Full Moon.
As a result, the established date for Easter is what dictates the observance of Good Friday. Western and Eastern Christianity determine dates for Good Friday and commemorate the day differently.
In 2017, Good Friday will be observed on April the 14th.
Good Friday History
Depiction of the Last Supper by artist Juan de Juanes, mid-late 16th century.
Good Friday is only one of the many major events that occurred through what we refer to as the Holy Week. Admittedly, it’s one of the most impactful and saddening moments.
Jesus’ entrance in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday kicked off the string of events. Soon after followed the famed Last Supper, when Jesus gathered his Apostles for one final meal. Knowing full of the betrayal to come, he made the memorable preach about wine, his blood, and bread, his flesh. Christians commemorate the moment during what they refer to as Maundy Thursday.
The day after, Judas’ betrayal resulted in Jesus’ arrest. He stood before the high priest Caiaphas and, eventually, before Pontius Pilate. Pilate decided that he needed to propose a punishment under the pressures of the high priests, who demanded a rebuttal. Jesus’ crimes involved blasphemy, the refusal of taxes to Caesar, and his self-titled position as a king and the Son of God.
Because of the indecisiveness of Pilate, the high priests, and King Herod (whose opinion Pilate asked for as well), Jesus also suffered from forms of torture. Pilate thought that Jesus’ crimes didn’t warrant a death penalty, so he ordered to have Jesus publicly whipped. The high priests, on the other hand, demanded the death penalty. They went as far as to offer to carry out the execution themselves.
The governor caved and, as a result, a badly injured and tortured Jesus had to his own cross towards the place of execution.
It’s hard not to know about the following events. Roman soldiers carried out the order and nailed Jesus to the cross by his feet and wrists (some claim it was his palms). He suffered six hours of agony, prompted to the cross by the sides of two other prisoners who were carrying out their executions.
Before Jesus died, scriptures claim that the skies darkened. After the guards made sure he really was dead, they took his body down and located it in a tomb, sealing the entrance with a boulder. Two days later, Jesus rose from the dead, addressed his loyal followers, and then returned to Heaven.
Good Friday Meaning
The etymology of Good Friday is the source of many contradictions as plenty of people fail to understand where the “goodness” in this tragic event lies. Scholars have attributed the name of the commemoration to the use of the word “good” as a synonym to “pious” and “holy.” The Oxford English Dictionary affirms this theory. It enlists “of a day or season observed as holy by the church” as an archaic definition of the word “good.”
Another variant claims that Good Friday is only the corruption of an alternative name – God Friday.
Good Friday is referred to across the globe by different names. Some use other names too, such as Great Friday, Black Friday, or Holy Friday.
Facts about Good Friday
- In the US, many public institutions seal their doors shut in honor of the commemoration. Despite this, Good Friday is only a legal holiday in 12 states.
- Good Friday is a national holiday in Cuba. This happened as a result of Pope Benedict XVI pressuring President Raul Castro to make it easier for Cubans to properly observe the day.
- Good Friday is one of the many days that fall during the fasting and abstinence period in Christianity. As customs dictate it, Christians aren’t allowed to consume meat or any dairy products on this holy day.
As far as holidays pivotal to Christianity go, Good Friday is one of the most important ones. Many deem it as the most solemn and saddening moments of Christianity. As a result, followers commemorate it accordingly.