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History of Good Friday

On the Friday before Easter Sunday, Good Friday is celebrated as a religious observance that is mostly associated with Catholics. In this article, you will learn why it is celebrated, the meaning behind it, and what people do on this holy day.

What is Good Friday?

Adherents of Christianity primarily observe the commemoration of the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, Good Friday. There are no traditional celebrations that take place, but the Church forgoes mass on this day and celebrates with a special liturgy that involves the reading of the Passion according to the Gospel of John. Good Friday is also referred to as Holy Friday, Black Friday, and Great Friday.

In addition to the Catholics and Eastern Christians that observe Good Friday, there are other religious groups who may observe in varying degrees, such as the Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans. Scriptures to reference in regards of Good Friday include Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 23; and John 17-19.

When Is It Celebrated?

Changing from year to year, the date for Good Friday changes in accordance to when Easter is observed. For example, this year, Good Friday falls on April 2, 2010, whereas next year, it will be observed on April 22, 2011.

Fasting and Abstinence

On Good Friday, strict fasting and abstinence is expected of adherents. Fasting is required of Catholics over the age of 18 and under the age of 60. During the day, they are allowed to eat only one complete meal and two smaller dishes throughout the day. No food in between is permitted. Catholics who are more than 14 years old are required to avoid eating any meat or any food that contains meat on Good Friday.

Good Friday is also a time where people give to the poor and attend vigil services. In some circles, family gathering are held.

Prayers for Good Friday

Prayers that are said on Good Friday include the Prayer Before a Crucifix, Divine Mercy Novena, and the Litany of Humility, which was written by the former secretary of state for Pope Saint Pius X, Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, who passed away in 1930. While some use this prayer as their daily prayer, it is known for being reciting in front of the crucifix in an effort to recall the humility of Christ. The first third of the prayer is:

“O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved”