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One
of the holiest days in the Christian liturgical year is Good Friday. On this
day, Christians commemorate the suffering of Jesus Christ when he was crucified
by Pontius Pilot.  Good Friday is a part
of Holy Week, which is the known as the few days leading up to Easter. Out of
all the days in Holy week, Good Friday is the most solemn; it is a day of
reflection and prayer.

            Good Friday has existed for over two
millennia, going back to c. 30 C.E., the original date of the crucifixion of
Jesus. Many people know the concept of Lent, Holy Week, and then Easter,
whether it be in full detail or simply just the gist of the three. A common
misconception non-Christians have regarding the name of Good Friday is that
they mistake it as a day of happiness and joy instead of a day of grieving and
sorrow. The origins of the holiday’s name remain unknown; whereas there are
many theories of how the name came to be. In an article called What’s So Good About Good Friday? Justin Holcomb writes,

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“Still, why call the day of
Jesus’ death “Good Friday” instead of “Bad Friday” or something similar? Some
Christian traditions do take this approach: in German, for example, the day is
called Karfreitag, or “Sorrowful Friday.” In English, in fact, the origin of
the term “Good” is debated: some believe it developed from an older name, “God’s
Friday.” Regardless of the origin, the name Good Friday is entirely appropriate
because the suffering and death of Jesus, as terrible as it was, marked the
dramatic culmination of God’s plan to save his people from their sins.”

The difficulties individuals encounter regarding the reasoning
for the holiday’s name could be a direct correlation to the difficulties
individuals also have with pinpointing a specific time, date, and place for the
celebration of the first Good Friday. Many individuals will say that Good
Friday originally came to be sometime during the Middle Ages, while some others
say that it, along with Easter, is a pagan holiday. A pagan holiday in this
scenario would be a holiday that not actually derived from a Christian
practice. Technically, the first Good Friday was the day Jesus was crucified in
c. 30 C.E. Individuals commemorated Good Friday by praying throughout the day
and by remembering the suffering of Jesus Christ. Regardless, Good Friday is
and always will be a significant day in the church’s liturgical calendar.

            Good Friday
can be classified under Smart’s dimensions of doctrinal- what individuals
believe, ritual-what individuals do, and experiential-how individuals feel. For
doctrinal, Christians believe that God sent his only son, Jesus, to save the
world from sin. Their original religious roots trace back to the same idea that
Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried on Good Friday. It is something
engrained in both the scriptures and their minds, making it a significant part
of their religious beliefs. For ritual, Christians celebrate Good Friday yearly
to commemorate Jesus’ suffering when he was crucified. They attend the Stations
of the Cross, pray, and refrain from eating meat on this day. For experiential,
Christians are mourning the death of Jesus on Good Friday. They feel thankful
for what he did for the world, but at the same, they are also sad because of
all the suffering he did for the world and his people. These three of Smart’s
dimensions aid in highlighting what Christians believe and how they ago about
their beliefs regarding the holiday, Good Friday.

With every holiday,
regardless the religion, comes some changes and evolvement over periods of
time. Since Good Friday dates back to several ages ago, it has most likely
experienced many different modifications. In an article entitled Good Friday, Hans J. Hillerbrand writes,

“The
liturgical celebration of Good Friday has undergone various changes over the
centuries. In the Roman Catholic Church
the mass was
not celebrated, on Good Friday until the late Middle Ages. When it began to be
celebrated only the officiating priest took communion. Laypeople have also
communed on Good Friday since 1955. The liturgy of Good Friday consists of the
reading of the Gospel Passion narrative, the adoration of the cross, and
communion. In the 17th century, following an earthquake in Peru, the three-hour
Service, a prayerful meditation on Jesus’ ‘Seven Last Words on the Cross,’ was
introduced to the Catholic liturgy by the Jesuits. It takes place between noon and
3 PM. Similar services
occur in the Eastern Orthodox tradition,
where no communion is celebrated.”

Although Good Friday
has undergone all of these changes in the past, they most definitely do not
disregard the overall meaning of the holiday. Good Friday is still a day of
worship and mourning the death of Jesus Christ. Different sectors of Christian
faith have their own ways of celebrating the holiday. No matter how one chooses
to celebrate Good Friday, purpose behind the importance of the day remains
unchanged.

Good Friday is considered to be a
day of sadness and grieving because of the large sacrifice that Jesus made for
all of his people. In an article entitled Life of the Spirit, Paul Foster
shares some insight on the story of the death of Jesus. He writes,

“The afternoon draws on and it grow
mysteriously dark beneath the Cross. At last, with a loud cry, our Lord gives
up his spirit to his Father and dies. And immediately, we read, the great veil
of the temple that hid the Holy of Holies was rent in twain from the top to the
bottom. Of course, for it was the old Jerusalem that died in that moment while
Christ reigns forever from the cross. The heart of religion is no hieratic
mystery for the High Priest to contemplate alone; the heart of religion is
there pierced open on the Cross, the perfect self-sacrifice perfectly offered
to the father” (419).

The
way Foster describes Jesus’ death alludes to the greater meaning that Good
Friday holds for those in the Catholic-Christian community. Jesus dying on the
cross symbolized the unconditional love he had for his people and his
willingness to give his own life to save the world from sin. It is important
for Christians to give thanks and remember this day because it is a reminder of
the huge sacrifice Jesus made for the sake of others. The life of the church is
through Jesus Christ, and Foster really illustrates this idea when he specifically
says, “the heart of religion is there pierced open on the Cross.” These words
are a vivid depiction of the suffering that Jesus endured without question,
which emphasizes the overall significance that Good Friday holds for the church
and its followers.

            With different age groups comes a
different understanding of Good Friday. Many Catholic-Christian families
encourage their children to both celebrate and understand the meaning of this
holiday. However, it can be difficult for young children to fully grasp the
idea and concept that Good Friday holds. I can relate to this on a personal
level. As a young child, I attended a private catholic school due to my
family’s heavy focus on religion and their faith. I developed a natural sense
of awareness for the different Christian holidays. When I was young, I celebrated
Good Friday by reading and coloring the stations of the cross and saying basic
prayers, mainly because I was told to. I never really thought much of it since
I was still a child. Many of the other children in my school were the same way.
However, growing up in a Catholic-Christian community really transformed the
way I perceived these Christian holidays. As I grew up, I realized the
importance of all of the teachings of the church, scripture, and bible. Now, I
am able to celebrate Good Friday differently than I did when I was child; I
have a newer and deeper understanding for it. Every year I attend The Stations
of the Cross at my local church, and I also attend a viewing of the reenactment
of The Passion of Jesus Christ. Another thing my family and several other
catholic families do is treat Good Friday as a day of mourning and solemnness.
With this being said, we do things such as: refrain from fun activities, limit
our technology usage, refrain from sleeping during the day, do not eat meat,
and lastly, there is pure silence in the house from the hours of 3:00 P.M. to
6:00 P.M. The idea behind all these things is that one should not be engaging
in any form of contentment or relaxation when Jesus was suffering and giving
his life for us.

            Good Friday is a very significant
day in the Christian liturgical calendar. On this day, Christians commemorate
the suffering of Jesus Christ when he was crucified on the cross. It is a day
of mourning, grief, and seriousness. God gave his only son to save the world
from sin, and for that the Catholic-Christian community is eternally grateful.

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