Good Friday is the Friday before Easter and the date during Holy Week when Christians do penance and commemorate the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The earliest evidence of Christians engaging in fasting and penance on this date can be traced back to the 2nd century - a time when many Christians celebrated every Friday as a feast day in remembrance of Jesus' death.
Today, Good Friday services in the Roman Catholic Church are much the same as they have been for centuries. The liturgy begins at 3:00 PM and is divided into three separate parts: prayers and readings (including the passion story from the Gospel of John and known as the Liturgy of the Word), the veneration of the cross (a Latin rite which involves kissing the foot of the crucifix which stands at the entrance of the sanctuary), and finally Holy Communion. There may also be what is known as the Three Hours Service, held from noon to 3:00 PM, which involves a series of hymns, prayers, and sermons focused upon Jesus' seven last words on the cross. Good Friday and the following Holy Saturday are the only dates of the year when mass is not celebrated in Roman Catholic churches.
In Eastern Orthodox churches, Good Friday is more commonly known as Great Friday and it actually begins the prior evening with readings from various passion stories in the New Testament. There is no eucharist service celebrated, but there is a reenactment of the burial of Jesus. Protestant churches also hold special services on Good Friday, often including Holy Communion and a Three Hours Service. Whereas Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians typically fast on Good Friday, many Protestants observe this date as a feast in honor of Jesus' act to redeem humanity from its sins.
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