Good Friday is the Friday within Holy Week, and 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.
Good Friday is 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 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. The Veneration of the Cross is also common. 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, therefore the reserved host from the Holy Thursday Mass is used.
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.