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What's so Good about Friday?

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What's so good about Good Friday? Many non-Christians have a difficult time understanding how it works. One of my Jewish facebook friends sent well wishes to all his Christian friends who are “celebrating” Good Friday, only to be told that Christians observe Good Friday, but we don't celebrate it. Is there anything good about remembering Jesus being treated like a lowly criminal and having to suffer and die on a cross?

In a word, yes. The reason why Good Friday is still a positive event for Christians is because Jesus willing opted to be crucified in order to save mankind. Jesus suffered and died for our sins, and his death made the resurrection possible – proving Jesus was indeed the Messiah that had been foreshadowed in the Old Testament. As we sang during my parish's Good Friday service, “Through death he trampled death”.

Here in Chicagoland, Catholics and Christians of all denominations often have elaborate and moving services in honor of Good Friday, since its the instrumental event that leads to the Resurrection and Easter Sunday. What Catholics and other Christians do to observe Good Friday varies greatly depending not only on the type of Christian denomination, but the local church community itself. Most churches have some type of service that focuses on Christ's passion, and includes gospel readings about the events leading up to his death. There may be visual depictions of the Crucifixion, dramatic readings, re-enactments, passion plays, or Stations of the Cross. In Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood every year, they observe an annual Way of the Cross procession where the Crucifixion itself is vividly reenacted on the streets of Chicago, with actors portraying Jesus and the Romans. In downtown Chicago, Holy Name Cathedral has a solemn “Liturgy of the Lord's Passion” every year, with Cardinal George presiding. At my parish in Homer Glen, Illinois, a more symbolic but equally moving Vespers service occurs. Hymns and gospel readings are sung about Christ's passion, followed by the Church going dark at night after the account of Jesus' death is read. This is followed by a candlelight procession around the church itself with a burial shroud that has an image of Christ painted on it. The shroud is then symbolically buried in the church. Finally, a reading on the Virgin Mary's Lamentations and an all-night vigil follows where people sign up for an hour to stay in the church for private prayer and meditation, similar to Eucharistic adoration.

Some eastern-rite Catholics refer to the day as not “Good Friday”, but “Great Friday”, stating that the fact God was able to take human form and die a physical death was the greatest feat in the history of humanity. So as we look forward to Easter this weekend, take a moment to reflect on sheer awe of Christ's passion and death. It can truly move you.

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