“Holy Friday is a day to be lived in remembrance of God’s profound love for humanity. It is a day of overwhelming gratitude for all that God has done for us,” says Protopresbyter Fr. Photios Dumont of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle, a parish in the San Francisco Metropolis.
Also known as Good Friday, the day marks the death of Christ on the cross, or the crucifixion. From Christian antiquity through modern times, it is a day observed with strict fasting, prayer, and church services. Holy Friday precedes Easter by two days.
“On this day we commemorate the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross,” reads a section from a page on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s website.
Like all of Holy Week, Good Friday is as solemn as it is sublime.
“Whenever we remember Christ, we enter into eternity with Him; every event, whether in the past or the future, becomes a present reality,” added Fr. Photios — which, incidentally, means light. “It is important to observe Holy Friday — to stand at the cross, and look upon our crucified Lord.”
“In so doing,” he also told LifeZette, “we begin to grasp the depth of God’s love for us, and His complete sacrifice for all of humanity. This understanding of God’s love for us is necessary if we are going to follow Him, and thereby attain all that He promises us: joy, peace, and life eternal.”
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Holy Friday commences with the Hebrew custom of the Service of the Royals Hours.
Church services consisting primarily of prayer readings, hymns and scripture readings from the Old and New Testament shed light on Christ’s passion — the short span of time from His entrance into Jerusalem until His crucifixion on Mount Calvary.
On Good Friday afternoon, the moving Service of the Apokathelosis, which literally means the Un-nailing of Christ from the Holy Cross, takes place.
This re-enactment is a reminder of Christ’s extreme humility — that He took on flesh, suffered undeservedly, and was crucified on the cross to redeem all of humanity.
During this service, the church recognizes the faithfulness and love of Joseph of Arimathea toward Jesus. A secret disciple and prominent Jewish leader at the time, he asked Pontius Pilate for the body of Christ so that he might prepare a proper burial “with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds,” according to the Gospel of John (19: 38-42).
The significance of Joseph’s actions should not be understated. Not only did he risk his status in the community by publicly expressing his devotion to Christ, but he also elevated and recognized Christ as King by giving Him an elaborate and expensive burial.
Good Friday is an opportunity for Christians to recommit themselves to follow Him — whatever the sacrifice may be.
Unlike Joseph of Arimathea, though, “In making Holy Friday our present reality, we understand that we do not love Christ enough. In contrast to Christ’s sinlessness, we are confronted with our own sinfulness,” said Fr. Photois.
In essence, Good Friday is an opportunity for Christians to recommit themselves to follow Him — whatever the sacrifice may be, noted Fr. Photios.
Figuratively speaking, Good Friday also transforms the cross, once a symbol of death, into a precious symbol of life — eternal.
Key dates for Good Friday 2018. This year, Western Christians, including Catholics and Protestants, observe Good Friday on Friday, March 30, while Eastern Orthodox Christians, including Greek and Russian Orthodox, among myriad others, observe this holy and somber day one week later on Friday, April 6.
Practically speaking, in the United States Good Friday is not considered an official holiday, but several states including New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, even Hawaii observe the holy day on March 30. The New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq Stock Market, and the bond markets also close on that day.
Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.