Good Friday fasting expressed personal penance and sadness over the death of Jesus. As early as the 2nd century, this tradition of fasting, sometimes from all food and drink, was observed for forty hours. It prepares for the Easter festivities and has always been a characteristic of Good Friday. In many places int he church this custom of fasting was very sever, more sever than official church discipline asked for. Remnants of this tradition are still evident. On this day, some families abstain not only from meat (the church discipline) but also from such ordinary foods as dairy products. Some – strange to the casual observer – customs still prevail on this day, for example, toast deliberately burned.
An atmosphere of quiet and even silence prevails in many families, with a curtailing of radio, television and secular music. Until recent times almost all of secular culture respected the spirit of Good Friday. Most businesses and places of employment were closed from noon until 3pm. Today this custom is observed only in scattered places
Good Friday is the anniversary of the death of Jesus on the cross just outside the walls of Jerusalem. This moment will be completed the following day as the Saturday night hours change into Sunday and death turns into resurrection. The origin of the term “Good” in the title of this day is unknown, but probably emphasizes the saving value of the historical event of the Crucifixion of Jesus. Another theory is that it is a corruption of “God’s” Friday. the theme of this day throughout history has been one of quiet sadness and mourning for the crucified and dead Jesus.
On this one day of the year the Eucharist is not celebrated in its usual form of the Mass. During the first centuries no Eucharist was celebrated on weekdays. This customary absence of weekday Eucharist took special meaning for Good Friday when the sacrificial dimension of the Mass began to be emphasized. The absence of Mass respects the historical sacrificial action of Jesus on the cross. Consequently, the church emphasized a liturgy of the word with a reading of the passion narrative and psalms prophesying the suffering of Jesus.
The Church’s Good Friday liturgy takes place in the afternoon or evening hours. It is the finest example of the prayer services held regularly in parish churches in ancient times before daily Mass became popular. The emphasis is on Scripture reading and prayers. The readings from both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures develop the theme of Jesus’ suffering and death. The prayers continue the ancient practice of general intercessions, now a part of all Masses, the Prayer of the Faithful.
VENERATION OF THE CROSS
Late in the 4th century, the veneration of the cross was introduced into Good Friday traditions in Jerusalem.
Generations before, according to legends, St Helen, the mother of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, discovered in the Jerusalem area the cross on which Jesus was crucified. It became an annual tradition at Jerusalem to offer the cross for the faithful to kiss and venerate. Later this custom, and fragments of the cross, relics, spread throughout the Roman Empire. It was incorporated into the Roman liturgy by the 8th century. The slow procession of people to kiss a cross held by ministers remains a dramatic feature of today’s Good Friday services. Until recent times the celebrant and servers, without shoes approached the cross with a series of genuflections before kissing it
MASS OF THE PRE-SANCTIFIED
During the Middle Ages the simple communion service of the Good Friday liturgy evolved into the Mass of the Pre-Sanctified (“Mass” with bread consecrated the day before). The ritual began to imitate a regular Mass without the Eucharistic Prayer. Early in its history the laity stopped receiving communion just as they had at any Mass. The priest alone, therefore, received communion on Good Friday. In 1955, the traditional ritual was restored: the Liturgy of the Word, the veneration of the cross, and the communion by the people