Orthodox Good Friday: May 3
Orthodox Good Friday is a religious observance for Orthodox Christians all over the world.
Orthodox Christians around the world will celebrate Good Friday. It is called the Holy and Great Friday, or just Great Friday. It is day or mourning and of obligatory fasting, remembering the events that preceded Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross.
History of Orthodox Good Friday
The celebration of Good Friday has been found in documents dated from the 4th century written by Egeria, a Gallic woman who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land between 381 and 384. She wrote a long letter about her journey, in which she recounts the experience of Easter. Since it is a day connected to the death of Christ, it has been per excellence a time of fasting and penance. According to biblical texts, Jesus at the age of 33, entered into Jerusalem on a Thursday, and on that same evening he had the Last supper with the Apostles. The next day Jesus was caught and the events of the Passion began. By the ninth hour, or 3:00pm, Jesus dies on the Cross. Two days afterwards, on Sunday, on the first day of the week He resurrected. The events of His imprisonment and Passion are remembered on Good Friday. In the Early church this day was called “Pascha of the Cross”, marking the beginning of the Passover festivities. After the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, Orthodox churches kept following the Julian calendar, meaning that for many years Orthodox Good Friday dates were later celebrations for the Western Gregorian calendar. Lately some Orthodox churches use the Revised Julian calendar that places the ecclesiastical dates in the same dates as Catholic Christians, but there are still tensions between New Calendarists and Old Calendarists within the Orthodox Churches.
Orthodox Good Friday Traditions, Customs and Activities
Good Friday remembers the moments that led to and include the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, as written in the New Testament of the Bible. It is a day for mourning and fasting, it is believed by Orthodox Christians that not only the day events are remembered, but that today again Jesus sufferings happen again for all the faithful and these become participants in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Throughout the day there are many times dedicated to prayer as the events lived by Christ unfolds in front of the eyes of the believers. The day begins with Matins, or Morning Prayers, during which the Twelve Gospels are chanted. There are twelve passages taken from the narratives of the Lord’s Passion that are included in the prayers. The next gathering for prayers is done with the Little Hours: First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour, Ninth Hour and Typica, including readings from Gospel, Old Testament and Epistle. The Evening Prayer, or Vespers f the Taking-Down from the Cross, occurs at 3pm, hour of the death of Jesus. At the end of Vespers there is a solemn veneration of what is called the epitaphion, a veil embroidered with the image of Christ prepared for burial. Jerusalem Matins, or Night Prayer, ends the day as the faithful join Mary in prayer and lamentation for the death of Jesus. There are traditions on this day to perform a symbolic burial of Christ. Chaldean and Syrian Christians do not greet each other on this day with the traditional greeting, Peace be with you, because Judas greeted Jesus this way and betrayed him. They replace the greeting with The Light of God may be with your departed ones. In Greece flags are lowered to half mast as a symbol of mourning. The icon of Christ is taken from the crosses in churches and wrapped in cloths inside a casket sheltered with flowers. This casket is then taken in procession for people to mourn the death of Christ. Just like in Russia where the tradition is to use a silver coffin covered with candles and flowers, the faithful Orthodox believers kneel down and kiss the icon of Christ’s body painted on the cloth shrouding the coffin.