Good Friday History
Good Friday serves to commemorate the day that Jesus was crucified. Following Jesus' arrest, he is found guilty of proclaiming himself to be the King of Jews. Jesus was sentenced to crucifixion. This day is celebrated in a number of different ways, from taking down the cross in the Orthodox faith to recounting the story of Jesus' last days, which is called the Passion of Christ. For many churches, Good Friday is the final service of Holy Week, following Holy Thursday and Palm Sunday. Other churches hold an Easter Vigil on Saturday night to bring the light of Christ back into the church.
Good Friday Facts
- In the Orthodox tradition, the day is called Holy and Great Friday. In typical Orthodox services a cross is removed from the church sanctuary, and the congregation observes a service that focuses on Christ's burial in the tomb.
- A service called Tenebrae is often held on Good Friday. It focuses on reading the scriptures that describe Jesus' arrest, trial, beating, and crucifixion. In the Roman Catholic Church, Tenebrae may be celebrated on Holy Thursday. Another variation, called Tre Ore, or 'three hours', is a service that runs typically from noon to 3 p.m., believed to be the time of Jesus' death. It focuses on the last seven phrases that Christ said before his death based on several different gospels. Each phrase is accompanied by a scripture reading, a hymn, and sometimes a short sermon.
- During Lent crosses in the sanctuary or outside churches are draped with purple cloth, which is a symbol of royalty. Jesus is often referred to in scripture as the Prince of Peace. Churches that have stationary crosses that can't be removed drape them in black, a symbol of death, on Good Friday.
- The Way, or Stations, of the Cross is another way that Christians observe Good Friday. It is primarily a Roman Catholic tradition, but some Protestant churches practice it as well. Depictions of the last 12 acts of Jesus' life are placed in the church or are sometimes permanently stationed outside on the church grounds. Worshipers walk from one station to the next in prayer and contemplation.
- Many Good Friday services end with the church bell toiling 33 times for each year of Jesus' earthly life.
Good Friday Top Events and Things to Do
- Several good movies depict Jesus' crucifixion. One is Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004). It focuses on the suffering and pain Christ endured. Another take is The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), a controversial film based on the book by Nikos Kazantzakis, who also wrote Zorba the Greek. This film asks the question,
What if Jesus had a choice to live as a human man or die for the sins of humanity?
- One tradition on Good Friday is to make and eat hot cross buns. The bread, which is slightly sweet, has a cross on the top that represents the crucifixion. It is thought to be an English tradition that dates back 500 years.
- The disciples felt grief and abandonment after Jesus' crucifixion. Contact someone you know who has suffered a recent loss.
- Attend a procession depicting the crucifixion of Christ. They are popular in Mexico and in Catholic communities in the United States.