Utah (ABC4) – Friday, April 2, 2021, is Good Friday.
In the Christian faith, Good Friday occurs two days before Easter Sunday and is the day when Christians commemorate Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. An important event of the Christian faith, Good Friday is observed all around the world.
How do Christians commemorate Good Friday?
Some Christians may attend special church services or prayer vigils. For others, Good Friday is a day of mourning and quiet prayer. Some Catholics treat Good Friday as a day of fasting, while others observe a partial fast involving the exclusion of meat.
The Utah Episcopal Churches join many other Christian churches by observing Good Friday in solemn services traditionally held at noon and 7:00 pm., Communications Director for the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, Craig Wirth tells ABC4.
“The noon service commemorates the first of the three hours that Jesus hung on the cross and that the Bible cites as darkness falling over the area,” Wirth shares. “Because many of the Episcopal Churches are just returning to in-person services after the pandemic, there are a mixture of Zoom, live, and recorded services. Virtually all are designed to be conducted at noon and 7:00. Priests will wear simple black vestments, the church will have no flowers, and the cross will often be covered in black.”
Wirth says the service is also a study of the last earthly words of Jesus.
“All Good Friday services will end in silence and people will leave the congregation also in silence and reflection, Wirth adds. “It is a very important service in the life of the Episcopal church, (and many other denominations) as it leaves one’s heart in the reflection that then becomes the joy of Easter.”
He says Easter, of course, will then break all the silence with music, and the church will be full of flowers representing that Christ has conquered death.
What is the history behind Good Friday?
According to Catholic.org, “Jesus was betrayed by Judas on the night of the Last Supper, commemorated on Holy Thursday. The morning following Christ’s arrest, he was brought before Annas, a powerful Jewish cleric. Annas condemned Jesus for blasphemy for refusing to repudiate Annas’ words that He was the Son of God. From there, Jesus was sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of the province.”
Pontius Pilate questioned Jesus but found no reason to condemn Him and suggested Jewish leaders deal with Jesus according to their own law.
Under Roman law, they could not execute Jesus, so they appealed to Pilate to issue the order to kill Jesus, Catholic.org states.
Jesus was declared innocent. Pilate washed his hands to show that he wanted nothing to do with Jesus, but the crowds were angry. According to Catholic.org, to prevent a riot and to protect his station, Pilate agreed to execute Jesus and sentenced him to crucifixion.
Jesus was convicted of proclaiming himself to be the King of the Jews, Catholic.org adds.
“On Good Friday we remember Jesus’ crucifixion by walking with him to his death, by being present with him in his suffering, and by numbering ourselves among the crowd that was present,” Rev. Cn. Mary June Nestler shares with ABC4.
“We seek to learn from his suffering so we may see the suffering of the world around us. We learn compassion in gazing on the cross so we can let compassion flow from us,” she says.
Rev. Cn. Mary June Nestler says there are two Good Fridays observed in the world, one on the calendar of Western Christians and the other of Orthodox, Eastern Christians.
“On both days the streets of Jerusalem are crowded with pilgrims who walk the traditional Way of the Cross, singing hymns, carrying large wooden crosses, and praying. The air is fragrant with incense, the pilgrims are reverently intent at each stop along the way to remember an event in Jesus’ passion,” she shares.
“I find it particularly moving to join a group I don’t know, and to see how I am silently welcomed among them with a touch on my shoulder or a small cross offered for my touch. There is a silent understanding that we are one people walking to call to mind a victim of torture and violence, not only among those walking the Way, but among those of other faiths who observe us and who acknowledge our common humanity.”
How is Good Friday being commemorated in 2021?
According to the Associated Press, Christians in the Holy Land are marking Good Friday this year amid signs the coronavirus crisis is winding down.
Many religious sites are opening up to limited numbers of people, but none of the mass crowds usually seen in the Holy Week leading up to Easter. In Christianity, Holy Week is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
In predominantly Christian countries like the Philippines, France, and Brazil, the virus is “still raging,” according to AP. Due to COVID-19 concerns, Holy Week commemorations are being restricted.
Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State began Good Friday with a visit to the Vatican’s COVID-19 vaccination center, according to AP.
In France, a nationwide 7 p.m. curfew is forcing parishes to move Good Friday ceremonies forward in the day, as the traditional Catholic night processions are being drastically scaled back or canceled.
For Americans, Good Friday is not a federal holiday and is usually not taken off of work.
Though not a federal holiday, some choose to take the day off, and in 10 states, Good Friday is observed as a state holiday. According to Office Holidays, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Tennessee commemorate Good Friday. It is an optional holiday in Texas.