Holy Friday or Good Friday?
Since the COVID-19 Pandemic precautions went into place, a group of friends from college holds a weekly phone conversation using Zoom on Saturday afternoon. During the last part of our Zoom chat, the question came up, "Why do we call the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Good Friday?" It does seem strange, and even more unusual to wish someone a "Happy Good Friday."
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We can find the answer to this question in the history of the early church. During Holy Week, every day was designated as "Holy." So, we have Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Holy Friday, and Holy Saturday. Each day has a designated commemoration: Holy Wednesday-Judas’ betrayal of Christ, Holy Thursday-the Last Supper/Institution of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Holy Friday-The Crucifixion and burial of Christ, and Holy Saturday-Christ’s harrowing of Hades-Victory over death.
This tradition continued for many centuries in both the Catholic or Latin West and the Orthodox or Greek East; however, the Protestant Reformation changed the way some Christians celebrated the feasts of the church. If the Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox celebrated one way, the Protestant Reformers changed that celebration to make it their own-rather than adopting the “same old Catholic/Orthodox way.” To wish someone a “Blessed, Holy Friday,” became “Happy Good Friday.”
The vocabulary became more contemporary/secular and less ecclesial as the Church of England gained prominence in the world and influenced the way its colonies spoke of the church feasts. Happy Christmas and Happy Easter replaced the traditional Latin/Greek greetings “Christ is Born-Glorify Him,” and Christ is Risen-Indeed He is Risen.”
Today, in more traditional Catholic and all Orthodox Countries, the faithful continue to greet each other on the feast of Christ’s Resurrection with Christus Resurrexit in Latin, Christos Anesti in Greek, Christos Voskrese in Russian, and Al’masih Qam in Arabic.
The word “Easter” never appears in the liturgy. In the Orthodox Church, the feast is called Holy Pascha. “Pascha” is a Greek word derived from the Hebrew “Pesach” or Passover, and the Church adopted this terminology to describe Christ’s death on the cross as the Christian Passover, where Christ serves as the “Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world.”
We discover the depth and meaning of Christ's Resurrrection when we celebrate the holy day with faith and love. Christ is Risen and have a Happy Easter.