Friday before Easter, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus. As early as the 2nd century it was kept by Christians as a day of penance and fasting. The Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have special liturgies for the day, which include readings and prayers commemorating Christ's sufferings on the cross. Protestant churches also hold special services on Good Friday.
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Based on the scriptural details of the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus, and scientific analysis, the Crucifixion of Jesus was most probably on a Friday, but see the article on Crucifixion of Jesus for a discussion on the exact date of Good Friday, which in recent years has been estimated as AD 33, by two different groups of scientists, and originally as AD 34 by Isaac Newton via the differences between the Judean and Julian calendars and the crescent of the moon.
According to the New Testament, Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by the Temple Guards through the guidance of his disciple, Judas Iscariot. Judas received money for betraying Jesus. He told the guards that whomever he kisses is the one they are to arrest. Jesus was brought to the house of Annas, who is the father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas. There he is interrogated with little result, and sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest, where the Sanhedrin had assembled ().
Conflicting testimony against Jesus is brought forth by many witnesses, to which Jesus answers nothing. Finally the high priest adjures Jesus to respond under solemn oath, saying "I adjure you, by the Living God, to tell us, are you the Anointed One, the Son of God?" Jesus testifies in the affirmative, "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." The high priest condemns Jesus for blasphemy, and the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus concurss with a sentence of death (). Peter also denies Jesus three times during the interrogations. Jesus already knew that Peter would deny him three times. See the article Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus regarding the two trials, one at night, the other in the morning and how their timing may affect the day of Good Friday.
In the morning, the whole assembly brings Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, under charges of subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and making himself a king (). Pilate authorizes the Jewish leaders to judge Jesus according to their own Law and execute sentencing, however the Jewish leaders reply that they are not allowed by the Romans to carry out a sentence of death ().
Pilate questions Jesus, and tells the assembly that there is no basis for sentencing. Upon learning that Jesus is from Galilee, Pilate refers the case to the ruler of Galilee, King Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Herod questions Jesus but receives no answer; Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate. Pilate tells the assembly that neither he nor Herod have found guilt in Jesus; Pilate resolves to have Jesus whipped and released ().
It was a custom during the feast of Passover for the Romans to release one prisoner as requested by the Jews. Pilate asks the crowd who they would like to be released. Under the guidance of the chief priests, the crowd asks for Barabbas, who had been imprisoned for committing murder during an insurrection. Pilate asks what they would have him do with Jesus, and they demand, "Crucify him" (). Pilate's wife had seen Jesus in a dream earlier that day; she forewarns Pilate to "have nothing to do with this righteous man" ().
Pilate has Jesus flogged, then brings him out to the crowd to release him. The chief priests inform Pilate of a new charge, demanding Jesus be sentenced to death "because he claimed to be God's son." This possibility filled Pilate with fear, and he brought Jesus back inside the palace and demanded to know from where he came ().
Coming before the crowd one last time, Pilate declares Jesus innocent, washing his own hands in water to show he has no part in this condemnation. Nevertheless, Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified in order to forestall a riot (). The sentence written is "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Jesus carries his cross to the site of execution (assisted by Simon of Cyrene), called the place of the Skull, or "Golgotha" in Hebrew and in Latin "Calvary". There he is crucified along with two criminals ().
Jesus agonizes on the cross for three hours, during which there is darkness over the whole land. With a loud cry, Jesus gives up his spirit. There is an earthquake, tombs break open, and the curtain in the Temple is torn from top to bottom. The centurion on guard at the site of crucifixion declares, "Truly this was God's Son!"
Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and secret follower of Jesus, who had not consented to his condemnation, goes to Pilate to request the body of Jesus (). Pilate asks confirmation from the centurion whether Jesus is dead (). A soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance causing blood and water to flow out and the centurion informs Pilate that Jesus is dead ().
Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus, wraps it in a clean linen shroud, and places it in his own new tomb that had been carved in the rock in a garden near the site of crucifixion. Another secret follower of Jesus and member of the Sanhedrin named Nicodemus also came bringing 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, and places them in the linen with the body of Jesus, according to Jewish burial customs (). They rolled a large rock over the entrance of the tomb (). Then they returned home and rested, because at sunset began the Sabbath ().
On the third day, Sunday, which is now known as Easter Sunday (or Pascha), Jesus rose from the dead.
The Roman Rite has no celebration of Mass after that of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday evening until that of the Easter Vigil, and the only sacraments celebrated are Penance and Anointing of the Sick. While there is no celebration of the Eucharist, Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful only in the Service of the Passion of the Lord, but can be taken at any hour to the sick who are unable to attend this service.
The altar remains completely bare, without cross, candlesticks or altar cloths. It is customary to empty the holy water fonts in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil. Traditionally, no bells are rung on Good Friday or Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil.
The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord takes place in the afternoon, ideally at three o'clock, but for pastoral reasons a later hour may be chosen. The vestments used are red. Before 1970, they were black except for the Communion part of the rite, for which violet was used, and before 1955 black was used throughout.If a bishop celebrates, he wears a plain mitre.
The liturgy consists of three parts: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.
The first part, the Liturgy of the Word, consists of the reading or chanting of , , , and the Passion account from the Gospel of John, which is often divided between more than one singer or reader. This part concludes with a series of prayers: for the Church, the Pope, the clergy and laity of the Church, those preparing for baptism, the unity of Christians, the Jewish people, those who do not believe in Christ, those who do not believe in God, those in public office, those in special need.
The second part of the Good Friday liturgy is the Veneration of the Cross: a crucifix, not necessarily the one that is normally on or near the altar at other times, is solemnly displayed to the congregation and then venerated by them, individually if possible, while special chants are sung.
The third and last part is Holy Communion according to a rite based on that of the final part of Mass, from the Our Father on. The Eucharist, consecrated at the Mass of Holy Thursday is distributed at this service. Before the reform of Pope Pius XII, only the priest received Communion in the framework of what was called the "Mass of the Presanctified", which included the usual Offertory prayers, with the placing of wine in the chalice, but which omitted the Canon of the Mass.
Priest and people then depart in silence, and the altar cloth is removed, leaving the altar bare except for the cross and two or four candlesticks.
In addition to the prescribed liturgical service, the Stations of the Cross are often prayed either in the church or outside, and a prayer service may be held from midday to 3.00 p.m., known as the Three Hours' Agony. In countries such as Malta, Italy, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Spain, processions with statues representing the Passion of Christ are held.
In Polish churches, a tableau of Christ's Tomb is unveiled in the sanctuary. Many of the faithful spend long hours into the night grieving at the Tomb, where it is customary to kiss the wounds on the Lord's body. A life-size figure of Christ lying in his tomb is widely visited by the faithful, especially on Holy Saturday. The tableaux may include flowers, candles, figures of angels standing watch, and the three crosses atop Mt Calvary, and much more. Each parish strives to come up with the most artistically and religiously evocative arrangement in which the Blessed Sacrament, draped in a filmy veil, is prominently displayed.
The Roman Catholic tradition includes specific prayers and devotions as acts of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus suffered during his Passion on Good Friday. These Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ do not involve a petition for a living or deceased beneficiary, but aim to repair the sins against Jesus. Some such prayers are provided in the Raccolta Catholic prayer book (approved by a Decree of 1854, and published by the Holy See in 1898) which also includes prayers as Acts of Reparation to the Virgin Mary.
In his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor on reparations, Pope Pius XI called Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ a duty for Catholics and referred to them as "some sort of compensation to be rendered for the injury" with respect to the sufferings of Jesus.
The Holy Week commemorations reach their peak on Good Friday as the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the passion of Jesus. Solemn celebrations take place in all churches together with processions in different villages around Malta and Gozo. During the celebration, the narrative of the passion is read in some localities. The Adoration of the Cross follows. Good Friday processions take place in Birgu, Bormla, Ghaxaq, Luqa, Mosta, Naxxar, Paola, Qormi, Rabat, Senglea, Valletta, Żebbuġ (Città Rohan) and Żejtun. Processions in Gozo will be in Nadur, Victoria (St. George and Cathedral), Xaghra and Żebbuġ, Gozo.
The following site is about Good Friday Celebration in Valletta, The Capital City of Malta.
Major television networks are paid to broadcast events at Roman Catholic parishes. These events include the reading of the Seven Last Words, the recitation of the Stations of the Cross, and the service of the Commemoration of the Lord's Passion.
Because of the penitence and sorrow associated with the Crucifixion, the Divine Liturgy is never celebrated on Great Friday, except when this day coincides with the Great Feast of the Annunciation, which falls on the fixed date of March 25 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, March 25 currently falls on April 7 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). Also on Great Friday, the clergy no longer wear the purple or red that is customary throughout Great Lent, but don black vestments instead. There is no "stripping of the altar" on Maundy Thursday as in the West; instead, all of the church hangings are changed to black, and will remain so until the Divine Liturgy on Great Saturday.
The faithful revisit the events of the day through public reading of specific Psalms and the Gospels, and singing hymns about Christ's death. Rich visual imagery and symbolism as well as stirring hymnody are remarkable elements of these observances. In the Orthodox understanding, the events of Holy Week are not simply an annual commemoration of past events, but the faithful actually participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Each hour of this day is the new suffering and the new effort of the expiatory suffering of the Savior. And the echo of this suffering is already heard in every word of our worship service - unique and incomparable both in the power of tenderness and feeling and in the depth of the boundless compassion for the suffering of the Savior. The Holy Church opens before the eyes of believers a full picture of the redeeming suffering of the Lord beginning with the bloody sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane up to the crucifixion on Golgotha. Taking us back through the past centuries in thought, the Holy Church brings us to the foot of the cross of Christ erected on Golgotha, and makes us present among the quivering spectators of all the torture of the Savior.
Holy and Great Friday is observed as a strict fast, and adult Byzantine Christians are expected to abstain from all food and drink the entire day to the extent that their health permits. "On this Holy day neither a meal is offered nor do we eat on this day of the crucifixion. If someone is unable or has become very old [or is] unable to fast, he may be given bread and water after sunset. In this way we come to the holy commandment of the Holy Apostles not to eat on Great Friday."
Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross (three times).
He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ (three times).
Show us also Thy glorious Resurrection.
During the service, all come forward to kiss the feet of Christ on the cross. After the Canon, a brief, moving hymn, The Wise Thief is chanted by singers who stand at the foot of the cross in the center of the nave. The service does not end with the First Hour, as usual, but with a special dismissal by the priest.
In the afternoon, around the 3 p.m. all gather for the Vespers of the Taking-Down from the Cross, commemorating the Deposition from the Cross. The Gospel reading is a concatenation taken from all four of the Gospels. During the service, the body of Christ (the soma) is removed from the cross, as the words in the Gospel reading mention Joseph of Arimathea, wrapped in a linen shroud, and taken to the altar in the sanctuary. Near the end of the service an epitaphios or "winding sheet" (a cloth embroidered with the image of Christ prepared for burial) is carried in procession to a low table in the nave which represents the Tomb of Christ; it is often decorated with an abundance of flowers. The epitaphios itself represents the body of Jesus wrapped in a burial shroud, and is a roughly full-size cloth icon of the body of Christ. Then the priest may deliver a homily and everyone comes forward to venerate the epitaphios. In the Slavic practice, at the end of Vespers, Compline is immediately served, featuring a special Canon of the Crucifixion of our Lord and the Lamentation of the Most Holy Theotokos by Symeon the Logothete.
On Friday night, the Matins of Holy and Great Saturday, a unique service known as the The Lamentation at the Tomb (O Epitaphios Threnos) is celebrated. This service is also sometimes called Jerusalem Matins. Much of the service takes place around the tomb of Christ in the center of the nave. A unique feature of the service is the chanting of the Lamentations or Praises (Engkomia), which consist of verses chanted by the clergy interspersed between the verses of Psalm 119 (which is, by far, the longest psalm in the Bible). At the end of the Great Doxology, while the Trisagion is sung, the epitaphios is taken in procession around the outside the church, and is then returned to the tomb. Some churches observe the practice of holding the epitaphios at the door, above waist level, so the faithful most bow down under it as they come back into the church, symbolizing their entering into the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Troparion (hymn of the day) of Good Friday is:
The noble Joseph, when he had taken down Thy most pure Body from the tree, wrapped it in fine linen, and anointed it with spices, and placed it in a new tomb. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen. The angel came to the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb and said: Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption.
Some Baptist, Pentecostal, many Sabbatarian and non-denominational churches do not celebrate Good Friday, instead observing the Crucifixion on Wednesday to coincide with the Jewish sacrifice of the Passover Lamb (which Christians believe is an Old Testament pointer to Jesus Christ). A Wednesday Crucifixion of Jesus Christ allows for Christ to be in the tomb (heart of the earth) for three days and three nights as he told the Pharisees he would be (Matthew 12:40), rather than two nights and a day if he died on Friday.
In many English-speaking countries, most shops are closed for the day and advertising from television and radio broadcasts is withdrawn to some degree.
In Hong Kong, all businesses and government offices are closed for a public holiday.
In the United States, Good Friday is not a government holiday. Private businesses and certain other institutions may close or not for Good Friday, according to their preferences. The stock market is closed on Good Friday. However, the vast majority of businesses are open on Good Friday. Some public schools may incidentally be closed on Good Friday because of the proximity of secular "spring break" holidays. The postal service operates, and banks regulated by the federal government do close for Good Friday.
Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, prohibits all alcohol from being sold on Good Friday. The day is a bank holiday, but not a public holiday. All pubs and many restaurants in Ireland close for the duration of the day. It is similar to Christmas Day in this regard. This tradition has come under criticism of late, with secular businesses claiming a loss in earnings by way of a religious festival. Many people cross the border to Northern Ireland to shop or visit pubs or restaurants.
In Germany, comedic theater performances and events which include public dancing are illegal on the day (although this restriction is enforced unevenly); cinemas and television are not affected, although many TV channels show religious material on the day. The enforcement of these rules even on non-Christians has met with increased opposition in the last decade.
In South Africa, the government regulates the opening of businesses and entertainment outlets on this day (as with Christmas Day). All government offices, schools and certain businesses are closed on Good Friday by law. The buying and selling of alcohol is prohibited.
In India, Good Friday is a Central Government as well as a State holiday, although Stock Markets are usually closed. Some other businesses are also closed in states where Christians are in the majority like Assam, Goa, and Kerala (higher percentage of Christians, even though not the majority) but the majority of businesses are open on Good Friday in rest of the country. Most schools are closed on Good Friday.
In Muslim-majority Indonesia, Good Friday is a national holiday. All government offices, schools and certain businesses are closed on Good Friday by law and many newspapers choose not to publish on this day. Public holiday is also observed in Singapore and in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.
In many English speaking countries, hot cross buns are eaten.
In Bermuda, kites are flown. They are often handmade with wooden sticks, colorful tissue paper, glue, and string. The shape of the kite and the use of wood is meant to symbolize the cross that Jesus died on. Also, the kite flying in the sky symbolizes his ascension to heaven.
Traditionally, Roman Catholics are to abstain from eating meat every Friday of the year as penance. Nowadays, this is only a requirement during Fridays of Lent; during Fridays of the rest of the year, other methods of penance may be followed, for example an extra prayer. As a modern tradition, many Roman Catholics (and members of other Christian denominations as well) will eat fish and vegetables on Good Friday.
There is no horse racing on Good Friday in the UK. However, in 2008, betting shops will open for the first time. The BBC has for many years introduced its 7 am News broadcast on Radio 4 on Good Friday with a verse from Isaac Watts' hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross".
In Sweden, Good Friday - as well as Easter Monday - is a national holiday. Some shops are open a few hours in the morning. People not particularly religious use Good Friday as a day of meeting relatives. The biggest community, Church of Sweden, does not celebrate Mass and therefore no Eucharist is distributed. Linked below is an English description of the Good Friday service.
Because Easter in Western Christianity can fall between March 22 and April 25 on the Gregorian calendar, Good Friday can fall between March 19 and April 22, inclusive. In Eastern Christianity, Easter can fall between March 22 and April 25 on Julian Calendar (thus between April 4 and May 8 in terms of the Gregorian calendar, during the period 1900 and 2099), so Good Friday can fall between March 19 and April 22, inclusive (or between April 1 and May 5 in terms of the Gregorian calendar). (See Easter.)