Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, commemorates the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross.
No Mass is celebrated on Good Friday. This is the only day of the year that Mass is not celebrated. The Church which was stripped the night before at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper sits with the altar bare, and with the door of the empty tabernacle standing open - as if in mourning.
On Good Friday, the Church celebrates a special liturgy 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.
In the seventh century, the Church in Rome adopted the practice of Adoration of the Cross from the Church in Jerusalem, where a fragment of wood believed to be the Lord's cross had been venerated every year on Good Friday since the fourth century. According to tradition, a part of the Holy Cross was discovered by the mother of the emperor Constantine, St. Helen, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Traditionally, the bishop placed the relic on a table in the chapel of the Crucifixion and the faithful approached it, touching brow and eyes and lips to the wood as the priest said (as every priest has done ever since): 'Behold, the Wood of the Cross.'
Adoration or veneration of an image or representation of Christ's cross does not mean that we adore the material image, but rather what it represents. In kneeling before the crucifix and kissing it we are paying the highest honor to our Lord's cross as the instrument of our salvation. Because the Cross is inseparable from His sacrifice, in reverencing His Cross we are in effect, adoring Christ. Thus we affirm: 'We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your Holy Cross You have Redeemed the
The Good Friday liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there was no Mass, consecrated Hosts that were reserved from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday are distributed instead.
Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence. Catholics who are 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.