Good Friday

Learn More about the History and Rituals of Good Friday

Ornate cross and statues in city
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Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, commemorates the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. Good Friday is the second day of the Easter Triduum, the period from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday.

Quick Facts

The History of Good Friday

Good Friday is the day on which Jesus Christ, having been betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Holy Thursday, tried before the Sanhedrin, and sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, was crucified for the sins of all mankind.

From the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday, since the Mass is a celebration both of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and of His Resurrection. Instead, the Church celebrates a special liturgy (called a "Liturgy of the Presanctified") in which the account of the Passion according to the Gospel of John is read, a series of intercessory prayers (prayers for special intentions) are offered, and the faithful venerate the Cross by coming forward and kissing it.

The Good Friday liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there was no Mass, and therefore no Hosts were consecrated, Hosts that were reserved from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday are distributed to the faithful instead.

The service on Good Friday is particularly solemn; the organ is not played, and all vestments are red or (in the Traditional Latin Mass) black.

The service is normally held sometime between the hours of noon and 3 P.M. local time; 3 P.M. ("the ninth hour") is when the Gospels tell us that Christ died on the Cross.

Since the date of Good Friday is dependent on the date of Easter, it changes from year to year. (See When Is Easter? and How Is the Date of Easter Calculated? for more details.)

Fasting and Abstinence

In the Catholic Church, Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence. Catholics over the age of 18 and under the age of 60 are required to fast, which means that they can eat only one complete meal and two smaller ones during the day, with no food in between. Catholics who are over the age of 14 are required to refrain from eating any meat, or any food made with meat, on Good Friday. (For more details, see What Are the Rules for Fasting and Abstinence in the Catholic Church? and Can Catholics Eat Meat on Good Friday? And if you're wondering what counts as meat, see Is Chicken Meat? And Other Surprising FAQs About Lent.)