Good Friday is a religious holiday observed on the Friday before Easter Sunday. On this day Christians commemorate the passion, or suffering, and death on the cross of Jesus Christ.
The passion of the Christ refers to the His mental, physical and spiritual suffering: the spiritual torment and agony in Gethsemane, the mental anguish of betrayal and mocking humiliation, and the excruciating physical pain of scourging and crucifixion. Jesus endured all this as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of humanity.
There are few explanations as to why the holiday is known as "Good" Friday since it commemorates a sorrowful time in Christianity. Some scholars believe that "good" is a corruption of the word "God's", in the same way that "good-bye" is derived from "God be with ye". Others speculate that "good" was used to denote "holy". In Eastern Orthodox churches, the observance is known as Great Friday.
Good Friday has been observed since about 100 C.E. However, for many years it had no association with Jesus' death but was simply another day of fasting. Since the late fourth century, it has been associated with the crucifixion. In the fourth 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."
Since then, the Church commemorates this day as the day when Jesus was arrested and tried in a mock trial. He was handed over to the Roman soldiers to be beaten and flogged with whips. A crown of long, sharp thorns was thrust upon his head. Jesus was forced to carry his own cross outside the city to Skull Hill. He was so weak after the beating that a man named Simon, from Cyrene, was pulled from the crowd and forced to carry Jesus' cross the rest of the way. Jesus was nailed to the cross. Two other criminals were crucified with him, their crosses placed on either side of him. A sign above Jesus read "King of the Jews."
Good Friday is usually seen as a time for mourning. The church is usually stripped of its ornaments, the altar laid bare, and the door of the empty tabernacle left standing open. No mass is celebrated on this day, but the service of Good Friday is called the Mass of the Presanctified because Communion which had already been consecrated on Holy Thursday is given to the people.
Many churches now have mourning services from noon until 3:00 p.m. to symbolize Jesus' last hours on the cross, also known as the Tre Ore or "Three Hours." The Tre Ore consists of seven sermons on the Seven Last Words of Christ. Some congregations also re-enact Jesus' procession to the cross in a ritual known as The Way of the Cross.
Various churches observe Good Friday in addition to Catholics and Eastern Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans all observe Good Friday to varying degrees.
- Adoration of the Cross - a practice where Christians approach a wooden cross and venerate it.
- Reproaches - often chanted by a priest during the Good Friday service as the people are venerating the Cross.
- Reading of the Passion - the Liturgy of the Word and the intercessory prayers for the Church and the entire world.
- Receiving the pre-consecrated Host - In the modern Latin rite of the Catholic Church, no masses are said on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, therefore the reserved host from the Maundy Thursday mass is used. This is called the "Mass of the Pre-Sanctified."
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