Introducing Holy Week: Good Friday

On Good Friday we remember the crucifixion. Good Friday is a stark service. The usual decorations in the church were stripped the night before. The priest and choir are vested all in black. We wait and watch with Jesus. We meditate on the death of Jesus. The tone is somber.

We read the Passion story, the story of the betrayal of Jesus, his friend Peter’s denial of their relationship, the sentence of death from the Roman governor, the journey through the city carrying the cross, and finally the crucifixion. The story is hard to hear.

There is no Eucharist celebrated on Good Friday. Instead, we recite and sing songs of lament. We pray for the state of the whole world. Then a wooden cross is brought into the church, and the congregation is invited to spend time at the foot of the cross. Some may choose to come forward and pray at the foot of the cross. Some may touch or even kiss the wood.

On the cross God took the worst of human stories, betrayal, suffering, denial, death, and wrote good news into human history. We can’t undo the past, but we can build a better future. The Rev. Dr. Luis Leon once wrote: “Peter’s tears of sorrow will wonder of wonders, be made a fountain of new life. God will fashion out of this wreckage of denial a new life of grace and power. That is why we dare to call this Friday ‘good.’”

One of the best meditations on Good Friday is the spiritual: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” We are invited into the loss, the pain, and the sadness.

On Good Friday, as on Maundy Thursday, the service ends without a dismissal. Holy Week’s three solemn services are all part of the same whole. We are not dismissed because remembering Jesus’ crucifixion is incomplete without commemorating the resurrection. The next day Holy Week culminates in the Easter Vigil, the holiest night of the Christian year.