The term 'Good Friday' can be misleading to those who are unaware of the reason behind the holiday, but the day is not a celebration of any kind. So, be wary of wishing someone a 'happy' Good Friday.
Used in this context, the word ‘good’ carries the same meaning as the original Old English word, which means holy. The Catholic Encyclopaedia mentions that, in the Greek Church, the holiday is known as "the Holy and Great Friday," while it's referred to as "Sorrowful Friday" in German - much better fitting terms for the day, indeed.
What is Good Friday?
Good Friday is a Christian holiday that commemorates the crucifixion and demise of Jesus Christ. Accounts from the Bible tell the story of how Jesus was accused of blasphemy, after having called himself the Son of God. He was thereafter betrayed by one of his twelve disciples, Judas Iscariot, who handed him over to the Jewish elders. After an unfair trial, Jesus was sentenced to death.
However, the Jewish high priests needed Rome to approve of the death sentence and so, Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor in Judea at the time. Pilate found Jesus innocent; however, he let the crowds decide his fate. The angry mob clamoured for him to be crucified.
Jesus was stripped of all but one piece of clothing and a crown of thorns was placed upon his head. He was publicly whipped and beaten by onlookers, as he was forced to carry a heavy cross all the way up to the Calvary Hill (also called Golgotha), where he would later be crucified, along with two thieves.
He was nailed to the cross atop the hill, in Jerusalem, with big nails that were hammered through his wrists and ankles. He was left to hang on the cross for around six hours, with an inscription above his head that read, The King of the Jews. It was during the last three hours of his crucifixion that the sky went dark; the timing was around noon to 3pm, according to the Bible. During this instance, Jesus looked up to the skies, and after a loud cry out to the heavens, he died on the cross.
At that very moment, an earthquake took over the land, the tombs broke open and the Jews of the land realised that they were now able to communicate to God directly through his son, Jesus Christ and no longer needed the high priests.
How is Good Friday commemorated?
Christians all over the world observe this day by fasting, offering prayers and attending the mass in churches. It is a day of mourning for the suffering that Christ endured for the sins of man. The day also essentially symbolises the realisation for Christians that Jesus Christ was, indeed, who he said he was - The Son Of God.
Churches around the world hold processions and services to draw the attention of the worshippers to the day of Jesus' death. They also have meditative services and remove all the decorations on the statues.
Good Friday comes at the end the holy period of 'Lent'. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." It is a season of forty days, which represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves to others.
After his death, Jesus was placed in a tomb and arose on 'the third day', which is known as Easter Sunday - a day that celebrates the resurrection of Christ, so it's a joyous occasion for Christians, everywhere.
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