Good Friday

Good Friday (also called "Great Friday" or "Holy Friday") is the most somber day of the entire year.  A silence pervades, socializing is kept to a minimum, things are done quietly; it is a day of mourning; it is a funeral.  The Temple of the Body of Christ is destroyed, capping the the penitential seasons begun on Septuagesima Sunday and becoming more intense throughout Lent. Traditional Catholics wear black, cover their mirrors, extinguish candles and any lamps burning before icons, keep amusements and distractions down, and go about the day in great solemnity.

Good Friday is traditionally a time of fasting and penance, commemorating the anniversary of Christ's crucifixion and death.  For Christians, Good Friday commemorates not just a historical event, but the sacrificial death of Christ, which with the resurrection, comprises the heart of the Christian faith.  The Catholic Catechism states this succinctly:

Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men (CCC 1992).

This is based on the words of St.  Paul: "[Believers] are justified freely by God's grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood...  (Romans 3:24-25, NAB).  The customs and prayers associated with Good Friday typically focus on the theme of Christ's sacrificial death for our sins. 

The evening (at sunset) of Good Friday begins the second day of the Paschal Triduum.  The major Good Friday worship services begin in the afternoon at 3:00 (the time Jesus likely died).  Various traditions and customs are associated with the Western celebration of Good Friday.  The singing (or preaching) of the Passion of St.  John's gospel consists of reading or singing parts of John's gospel (currently John 18:1-19:42 in the Catholic Church).  The Veneration of the Cross is also common in the Western Church.  This is when Christians approach a wooden cross and venerate it, often by kneeling before it, or kissing part of it.  In addition to these traditions, Holy Communion with the reserved host is practiced.  In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, no Masses are said on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, therefore the reserved host from the Holy (Maundy) Thursday Mass is used.  This is called the "Mass of the Pre-Sanctified." Many Churches also offer the Stations of the Cross, also called the "Way of the Cross," on Good Friday.  This is a devotion in which fourteen events surrounding the death of Jesus are commemorated.  Most Catholic Churches have fourteen images of Jesus' final days displayed throughout the parish, for use in public Stations of the Cross services.  Another service started by the Jesuit Alphonso Messia in 1732, now less common, the Tre Ore or "Three Hours," is often held from noon until 3:00 PM, and consists of seven sermons on the seven last words of Christ.  This service has been popular in many Protestant churches.  Good Friday, along with Ash Wednesday, is an official fast day of the Catholic Church.


Good Friday Prayer

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.




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St.  Patrick's Church at Moody Air Force Base