This day is part of something bigger than itself. It is the first full day of the Paschal Triduum. The liturgical services of Good Friday have no formal beginnings or endings, no greetings or dismissals. The services are all part of the single, three-day liturgy of the Triduum.
The primary liturgy of Good Friday is usually held in the afternoon. This is the time when the lambs were slaughtered in the Temple in Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover feast. This is the time when Jesus died.
St. John's account of the passion is heard today. This account is in many ways different from those in the other three gospels. John shows us how God's glory is seen in the suffering and death of Jesus. We see Jesus reigning from the tree of the Cross, entrusting his disciples to one another’s care. We hear that Jesus was buried with a hundred pounds of sweet-smelling myrrh. The tomb was in a garden. Perhaps John is telling us that, because of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, we are welcome back to paradise.
On Good Friday the gathered church prays for the world and all its peoples. We do this every day, but today the prayer takes an ancient form.
A large wooden cross is carried into church. Symbolically, we say that this wood is the cross on which Jesus died. We also say that this is the tree of life in Eden. This is the ark that saved Noah and his family and the creatures huddled inside. This is the staff that Moses held up to split the waters of the Red Sea. Is it any wonder that people call this Friday "good"?
People fast on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. This is called the "paschal fast." Before a big event or after a tragedy, most people lose their appetites. That's one reason that members of the church fast during these days. We're filled with anticipation. Another reason for the fasting is to remind us of Adam and Eve in paradise. God told them not to eat the fruit of a particular tree. On these days the children of Adam and Eve stand before the tree, the holy cross of Christ, and they refuse to eat.
The paschal Sabbath lasts from Good Friday sunset to Holy Saturday sunset. This is the middle day of the Triduum. It is perhaps the strangest, most mysterious, most puzzling day on the calendar. In Latin, Holy Saturday is Sabbatum Sanctum, the Holy Sabbath. In the tomb, Jesus rested on the Sabbath. The church rests in Christ today.