Good Friday, also known as Holy Friday, is celebrated on the Friday before Easter and commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifices he made for people. Good Friday is a holiday in 11 States, and although not an official United States holiday, stock markets, businesses, schools and colleges are closed, and only regular necessary services are running.
When is Good Friday celebrated?
It is stated in the Bible that Jesus had his last meal, also known as Last Supper, with his disciples on the day of the Passover Seder. This day took place on the 15 Nisan of the Jewish calendar, which corresponds to April 7 on the Gregorian Calendar.
Controversially, both Good Friday and Easter Sunday follow the flexibility of the Passover date on the Jewish lunisolar calendar, as Catholics associate Jesus’s Last Supper with Seder.
In this way, Good Friday always falls somewhere between March 20 and April 23.
The date on which to observe Jesus’s death and resurrection has always been a topic of much debate. Up until the 4th century, His Last Supper, Death and Resurrection were all celebrated together on one day. Since then, however, those observances have been moveable.
Why is it called Good Friday?
As a day that celebrates death and sacrifice, many wonder what is so “good” about Good Friday and what the meaning of the day's name is.
Initially, this was a day for sorrow, repentance and fasting, and it was even known in some places as “sorrowful Friday”.
Although no one is certain of the origins of the term “Good Friday” some believe it is simply a misspelling of “God’s Friday” that was altered over the years. Others think that it is a good day because it is holy, like what happened to Jesus after his death was.
In fact, the US Catholic School Text argues that Good Friday gained its name because Jesus’s death showed his great love for Men, and how he was willing to die to give Man his blessings.
The Oxford English Dictionary explains that “good” is merely a word used by the Catholic church to mean a day of religious observance.
The first record of the usage of the term “guode Friday” is in a book from 1290 named The South English Legendary.
The history of Good Friday
After being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had to undergo trials in the morning with three Jewish priests, and three Roman priests, between them Pontius Pilate and Herod. Although Pilate wanted to spare Jesus’s life and only have him beaten, the others thought he deserved a stronger punishment, and so he was sentenced to be crucified.
Ridiculed by soldiers, he was made to wear a purple robe and a crown of thorns, and on his cross, the words “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” were engraved. He was then made to carry his cross up to the place where he was crucified, and eventually, he died for everyone’s sins.
Good Friday was then created as a day to commemorate Jesus’s sacrifices and suffering, and it marks the end of Holy Week.
How is Good Friday celebrated?
In America, most people celebrate this day by attending church services.
The celebration of Good Friday has changed over the centuries. For example, during the middle ages only the officiating priest was allowed to take communion. However, since 1955, any member of the congregation can do so too.
The Good Friday prayer is not necessarily a mass, but rather a liturgy where Bible passages related to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ are read. The service includes the reading of the Gospel Passion narrative, the adoration of the cross and the communion.
For communion, there is the reserved sacrament, which is bread and wine that have been consecrated the day before.
In America, the service usually lasts for three hours, and there is no organ playing, the cross is draped, and the altar is bare.