Good Friday

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Good Friday
Observed by Most Christians
Type Christian
Significance commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ
Date Friday immediately preceding Easter Sunday
2007 date April 6
2008 date March 21 (Western)
April 25 (Eastern)
Celebrations No traditional celebrations
Observances Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, some family gatherings
Related to Passover, Christmas (which honors the birth of Jesus), Septuagesima, Quinquagesima, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday which lead up to Easter, Easter Sunday (primarily), Ascension, Pentecost, Whit Monday, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi which follow it

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter or Pascha. It commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus at Calvary. This year, it is on April 6, 2007.

Good Friday is a holy day observed by Christians. Special prayer services are often held on this day with readings from the Gospel giving accounts of the events leading up to the crucifixion. Mainstream Christian churches view Christ's crucifixion as a voluntary and vicarious act, and one by which, along with resurrection on the third day, death itself was conquered.

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[edit] Different representations in different languages

It is likely that the name "Good Friday" came from the earlier English name, "Godes Friday," meaning "God's Friday." In much the same was as "God be with ye" was shortened to "goodbye," so did "Godes Friday" become "Good Friday."

Other languages use other names for this day.

In Israel, Good Friday is known as "Big Friday." In Germany it is "Karfreitag", an Old German word meaning "Friday of lamentation", although this meaning is not obvious to speakers of modern German. In Malta, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia (and Eastern Orthodox Church in general) the day is called Great Friday. In Armenia it is called "High Friday (Ավագ Ուրբաթ)". In Russia they call it "Passion Friday (Strastnaja Pjatnitsa)". In Latin America, Spain, France, Italy, the Philippines and Portugal the day is called "Holy Friday"; in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Faroe Islands and Iceland it is "Long Friday". In Portuguese language it is called "Sexta-Feira Santa" meaning "Holy Friday".

[edit] Jesus' possible death date

"El Cristo de Velázquez" - Jesus's crucifixion as portrayed by Diego Velázquez
"El Cristo de Velázquez" - Jesus's crucifixion as portrayed by Diego Velázquez

As a matter of historical fact, the date of Christ's death is unknown and cannot be calculated from the information in the Gospels. The Gospels indicate he died on the afternoon of 15 Nisan (the day of the Passover, Lev 23:5) - or, alternatively, on the day before; but no year is given, except that it was during the reign of Tiberius Caesar (AD 14-37). According to all four Gospels (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:31) Jesus died on Preparation Day (the day before the Sabbath), which would make it a Friday.

Thus, the question is fully relegated to theological speculation, under which it is believed the Crucifixion occurred on a Friday in April or March. One possible date is 3 April AD 33. A partial lunar eclipse also took place on this date, which some have argued corresponds to the "darkness" mentioned in Matthew 27:45. John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew notes 7 April 30, 3 April 33, and 30 March 36, as possible Friday 14 Nisan dates during the rule of Pilate.

In Western Christianity the earliest possible date for Good Friday is March 20 and the latest possible date is April 23. The latest possible date for Great Friday in Eastern Orthodoxy is May 7. See also Reform of the date of Easter.

[edit] In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches

A Divine Liturgy is never celebrated on Good Friday, except when it coincides with the feast of the Annunciation. Instead of the Divine Liturgy, the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholics meet up to three times during the day for prayer: in the forenoon, to pray the Royal Hours appointed for that day; in the afternoon, around the 3 p.m. (the time of day that the Bible gives for the death of Christ), the Vespers of Holy Friday; and in the evening, the Matins of Holy Saturday.

The congregants relive the events of the day through public reading of the Psalms and Gospels, and singing hymns about Christ's death. Visual imagery and symbolism is also often used: in the morning, a large cross is moved to the front or center of the nave (where the congregation gathers), and a two-dimensional painted body of Christ, or corpus, is placed on it. During the afternoon prayers, it is removed from the cross and taken to the altar in the sanctuary, and an epitaphios is brought down to a low table in the nave representing the tomb; it is often decorated with an abundance of flowers. The epitaphion itself represents the body of Jesus wrapped in a burial shroud, and is a roughly full-size cloth icon of the body of Christ. During the evening prayers, the shroud is part of a procession outside the church, and is then returned to the tomb.

During this time, the hymns do not forget the coming resurrection. Holding both events in tension, the following troparion (type of hymn) is sung during the afternoon prayers while the shroud is being carried to the tomb:

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, 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.

Adult Orthodox Christians are supposed to abstain from all food and drink the entire day (which they call "Holy and Great Friday"), to the extent that their health permits.

[edit] In the Roman Catholic Church

Dates for Good Friday, 2000-2020
Year Western Eastern
2000 April 21 April 28
2001 April 13
2002 March 29 May 3
2003 April 18 April 25
2004 April 9
2005 March 25 April 29
2006 April 14 April 21
2007 April 6
2008 March 21 April 25
2009 April 10 April 17
2010 April 2
2011 April 22
2012 April 6 April 13
2013 March 29 May 3
2014 April 18
2015 April 3 April 10
2016 March 25 April 29
2017 April 14
2018 March 30 April 6
2019 April 19 April 26
2020 April 10 April 17
The statue of Our Lady of Sorrows (or La Pietà) used during the Good Friday procession, Żejtun, Malta
The statue of Our Lady of Sorrows (or La Pietà) used during the Good Friday procession, Żejtun, Malta

Roman Catholic Christians treat Good Friday as a fast day, which is defined as only having one full meal or two small ones. It is not a day of abstention from work however; people work until shortly before the beginning of the afternoon service.

The Catholic Good Friday in the Roman Rite afternoon service - held around 3 p.m., the time Christ is said in the bible to have died, in those countries where Good Friday is a public holiday - involves a series of readings and meditations, as well as the (sung) reading of the Passion account from the Gospel of John which is often read dramatically, with the priest, one or more readers, and the congregation all taking part. In the traditional Latin liturgy, the Passion is read by the priest facing the altar, with three deacons chanting in the sanctuary facing the people. Unlike Roman Catholic services on other days, the Good Friday service is not a Mass, and in fact, celebration of Catholic Mass on Good Friday is forbidden; unlike the Eastern Churches, the feast of the Annunciation is moved to the week after easter if it should fall on Good Friday. Eucharist consecrated the night before (Maundy Thursday) may be distributed (otherwise, it is only available as viaticum for the dying). The violet draping is removed from the Crucifix with the people given an opportunity to venerate it. The services also include a long series of formal intercessions. The solemnity and somberness of the occasion has led to a phenomenon whereby in the course of history the liturgical provisions have a tendency to persist without substantial modification, even over the centuries (Anton Baumstark). In some countries, such as Malta, Italy and Spain, processions with statues representing the Passion of Christ are held.

In Polish culture 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, 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.


[edit] An example: Malta

The Holy Week commemorations reach their paramount on Good Friday as the 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, Żebbug and Żejtun. Processions in Gozo will be in Nadur, Victoria, Xaghra and Żebbug.

[edit] An example: The Philippines

In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, the day is commemorated with street processions, the Way of the Cross, and a Passion play called the Sinakulo. The Church keep the day solemn by not tolling the church bells and no mass will be celebrated. In some communities (most famously in San Fernando, Pampanga), the processions include devotees who self-flagellate and sometimes even have themselves nailed to crosses as expressions of penance. After three o'clock in the afternoon of Good Friday (the time at which Jesus is traditionally believed to have died), noise is discouraged, radio stations and television stations sign off, businesses automatically close, and the faithful are urged to keep a solemn and prayerful disposition through Easter Sunday.

[edit] Anglican Communion

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer did not specify a particular rite to be observed on Good Friday but local custom came to mandate an assortment of services, including the Seven Last Words from the Cross and a three-hour service consisting of Matins, Ante-communion (using the Reserved Sacrament in high church parishes) and Evensong. In recent times revised editions of the Prayer Book and Alternative Service Books have re-introduced pre-Reformation forms of observance of Good Friday corresponding to those in today's Roman Catholic Church, with special nods to the rites that had been observed in the Church of England prior to the Henrican, Edwardian and Elizabethan reforms.

[edit] Other Protestant Traditions

Many Protestant communities hold special services on this day as well. In the German Lutheran tradition from the 16th to the 20th century, this was the most important holiday, and abstention from all worldly works was expected. Lutheranism had no restrictions on the celebration of Holy Communion on Good Friday; on the contrary, it was a prime day on which to receive Holy Communion, and services were often accentuated by special music such as the St. Matthew Passion by Lutheran Johann Sebastian Bach. Mid-20th century Lutheran liturgical practice moved away from Holy Communion celebrated on Good Friday, and among the major North American Lutheran bodies today, Holy Communion is not celebrated on Good Friday, but rather on Maundy Thursday. Moravians hold a Lovefeast on Good Friday as they receive Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday. The United Methodist Church also commemorates Good Friday with a service of worship.

Some Baptist, 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.

This notion arises from literal translation of the Greek New Testament. The Latin calendar includes partial days as full days, thus the early church determined those three days Jesus Christ was in the tomb included Friday and Sunday.

[edit] Customs associated with Good Friday

In many countries with a strong Christian tradition such as Malta, Germany, Chile, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the day is observed as a public or federal holiday.

In many English speaking countries, most shops are closed for the day and advertising from television and radio is withdrawn to some degree.

In Canada banks and government offices (at all levels) and public sector businesses are closed, along with most private sector businesses (except in Quebec).

In the United States, Good Friday is not a federal holiday, although it is a state holiday in some locations. U.S. governments are also constitutionally prevented from forcing most private businesses to open or close on any particular day, so the stock markets are usually closed on Good Friday along with many other businesses (especially in rural areas) - but the majority of businesses are open on Good Friday. Some public schools close on Good Friday because so many children's families observe the holiday. The postal service operates, and banks regulated by the federal government are not allowed to close. State and local offices are closed in areas where it is a state holiday.

Hot cross buns
Hot cross buns

The Republic of Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country, prohibits all alcohol from being sold on Good Friday. Almost 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, theater performances and events which include public dancing are illegal on the day; 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.

Eastern Orthodox Christians eat as little as possible on this day while the Roman Catholic Church observes fasting and abstinence for this day as well as Ash Wednesday.

In many English speaking countries, hot cross buns are eaten.

Traditionally, 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 Catholics will eat fish on Good Friday.

[edit] Related holy days


edit Holy Week

Palm Sunday | Holy Monday | Holy Tuesday | Spy Wednesday | Maundy Thursday | Good Friday | Holy Saturday | Easter Sunday | Easter Monday

[edit] See also

  • The Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, a major step in the Northern Ireland peace process, which was signed on Good Friday in 1998
  • The term 'Good Friday' has been adopted recently by The Karma Army to denote the day of the week they perform Random Acts of Kindness, but has no connection to the Christian celebration.
  • Good Friday experiment, a test conducted on Good Friday, 1962, at Boston University's Marsh Chapel by Walter Pahnke on a number of divinity students, to determine the usefulness of psilocybin for facilitating mystical experience. According to Pahnke, the experiment determined that "the persons who received psilocybin experienced to a greater extent than did the controls the phenomena described by our typology of mysticism."

[edit] External links