The Christian world observes today, April 3, as Good Friday. It is the day which falls three days before Easter Day, allowing for the biblical story that on the third day after Jesus of Nazareth was crucified he arose from the dead.
The day of Easter is fixed by a formula established in the early days of the Christian community. Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon (PFM) date for the year. Therefore, Good Friday is the Friday which falls three days before that astronomically defined occurrence.
It is on the biblical Maundy Thursday that, according to the Gospels, Jesus was arrested . On the next day (Good Friday) he is taken by the authorities and a crowd to the Hill of Golgotha (meaning “the Place of the Skull”) where he is nailed to a cross and left to die. The story tells us that he dies in mid-afternoon, and is taken down and placed in a borrowed tomb, where a stone is rolled against the opening to protect it from thieves and roving animals.
Good Friday is observed by Christians as a day of mourning. Music is somber, there is no celebration of Sacraments, and many people fast from foods. Churches are stripped of celebratory art and color. It is a day of confession of one’s sins, recounting that Jesus “died for our sins” on that day.
The naming of the day as “Good” Friday is not authoritative. However, it is suspected that it is a term that arose in the Gallican church community.
There are two possible origins for the name “Good Friday”. The first may have come from the Gallican Church in Gaul (modern-day France and Germany). The name “Gute Freitag” is Germanic in origin and literally means “good” or “holy” Friday. The second possibility is a variation on the name “God’s Friday,” where the word “good” was used to replace the word “God,” which was often viewed as too holy to be spoken aloud.” *
For most Christians, the term “Good” identifies the day as special and needing to be protected, or reserved.
When I was a child in a primarily-Roman Catholic community, there was no school on Good Friday. From Noon to 3:00 in the afternoon it was a tradition of the Roman Catholic Church for stores to close, and the people refrained from speaking. I remember passing good friends on the street who looked straight ahead and passed silently. I thought it was a strange tradition. It has passed from ordinary occurrence today.
In our more diverse country today, Good Friday is primarily a Christian observance. Schools tend not to close, although I did notice that the NY Stock Exchange did no business today. In spite of the fact that stores may be open there is still a sense of sobriety among people.
This year the day coincides with the Jewish observance of Passover. That adds another whole dimension to the sound and feeling of the day.
Illustration Credit: westbrooke