Good Friday is the day that Christians commemorate the betrayal, crucifixion and death of Jesus. The solemn day of mourning is spent with fasting, prayer, repentance and meditation.
Good Friday falls on March 25 this year, on the Friday before Easter Sunday. Learn more about its history, meaning and traditions.
1. On This Day, Jesus Was Crucified
The arrest, trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus Christ all occur on Good Friday. You can find the accounts in these four Bible verses: Matthew 26:14-27:66, Mark 14:12-15:47, Luke 22-23, John 18-19.
Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles, exposed Him to the chief priests by kissing Him. In Luke’s Gospel, it states:
While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Then they arrested Him. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea, found Jesus innocent, but the crowd that gathered cried, “Crucify him!”
Jesus was beaten and spit on, and a crown of thorns was placed on His head and He was stripped of his clothes.
When they got to Golgotha, Place of the Skull, they drove nails through his wrists and ankles and nailed Him to a cross that held this mocking inscription, “The King of the Jews.” As he hung on the cross, people said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.”
Christians acknowledge that Jesus died at approximately 3 in the afternoon.
The Gospel of Matthew states:
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a] lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The scene above is from the 2014 film Son of God.
2. Mass Is Not Celebrated, but the Cross Is Venerated
Good Friday is the only day of the year when Mass cannot be celebrated. The Church is not decorated on this solemn day, and the altar is bare. There is no Eucharist present in the church, and the tabernacle’s door remains open. It is not a Holy Day of Obligation, but Christians can still go to church to partake in the liturgy.
Part of the service includes the Veneration of the Cross to remember what Jesus went through. A life-sized cross is placed at the center of the altar and parishioners pass it by and kiss or touch it if they choose.
In the video above, Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, gives us insight into the meaning of the day. He also recites what is said at the Good Friday service, “We adore thee oh Christ and we praise thee, because by thy Holy Cross thou hast redeemed the world.”
3. The Rules of Fasting & Abstinence Apply
Christians usually are reverent during the hours of 9 am to 3 pm, which is when it is recorded that Jesus was Crucified and died. In their homes, they maintain a quiet atmosphere, with limited television, radio and computer use, and partake in little or no outside activities.
4. The Stations of the Cross Are Walked
The Stations of the Cross is a 14-step devotion the faithful follow to commemorate the last path of Jesus.
According to the Vatican, “follows Jesus through different stations of his torture and eventual crucifixion, with reflections on his suffering at each point.”
The stations are as follows:
1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death
2nd Station: Jesus carries His cross
3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time
4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross
6th Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7th Station: Jesus falls the second time
8th Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9th Station: Jesus falls a third time
10th Station: Jesus clothes are taken away
11th Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross
12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross
13th Station: The body of Jesus is taken down from the cross
14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb
5. There Are Possible Reasons That It’s Called ‘Good’
There are different theories as to why a day that is marred with the death of Jesus Christ could possibly be called good. Some say that the word “good” signifies that it is holy. The Oxford English dictionary says that “good” can refer to “a day or season observed as holy by the church.”
Another explanation is that the words “God’s Friday” were changed over time.