Paolo Veneziano: The Crucifixion The Crucifixion, tempera on wood by Paolo Veneziano, c. 1340/45; in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 31 cm × 38 cm. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1939.1.143 Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, the day on which Christians annually observe the commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. From the early days of Christianity, Good Friday was observed as a day of sorrow, penance, and fasting, a characteristic that finds expression in the German word Karfreitag (“Sorrowful Friday”).Until the 4th century, Jesus’ Last Supper, his death, and his Resurrection were observed in one single commemoration on the evening before Easter. Since then, those three events have been observed separately—Easter, as the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection, being considered the pivotal event.
The liturgical celebration of Good Friday has undergone various changes over the centuries. In the
Roman Catholic Church the mass is not celebrated on Good Friday, though a liturgy is performed. With the revival of a liturgical emphasis in Protestantism in the second half of the 20th century, a distinct trend of adopting Catholic ritual (no use of the organ in the service, draping of the cross, baring of the altar, etc.) developed.
Christmas and Easter, which have acquired numerous secular traditions, Good Friday has, because of its intense religious connotation, not led to an overlay of secular customs and practices.
I’m reminded of this quote by the late Cardinal Fulton J. Sheen: