Definition and etymology
Good Friday, called Feria VI in Parasceve in the Roman Missal, he hagia kai megale paraskeue (the Holy and Great Friday) in the Greek Liturgy, Holy Friday in Romance Languages, Charfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German, is the English designation of Friday in Holy Week — that is, the Friday on which the Church keeps the anniversary of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Parasceve, the Latin equivalent of paraskeue, preparation (i.e. the preparation that was made on the sixth day for the Sabbath; see Mark 15:42), came by metonymy to signify the day on which the preparation was made; but while the Greeks retained this use of the word as applied to every Friday, the Latins confined its application to one Friday. Irenaeus and Tertullian speak of Good Friday as the day of the Pasch; but later writers distinguish between the Pascha staurosimon (the passage to death), and the Pascha anastasimon (the passage to life, i.e. the Resurrection). At present the word Pasch is used exclusively in the latter sense. The two Paschs are the oldest feasts in the calendar.
From the earliest times the Christians kept every Friday as a feast day; and the obvious reasons for those usages explain why Easter is the Sunday par excellence, and why the Friday which marks the anniversary of Christ's death came to be called the Great or the Holy or the Good Friday. The origin of the term Good is not clear. Some say it is from "God's Friday" (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English. Sometimes, too, the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons; so today in Denmark.
Office and ceremonial
There is, perhaps, no office in the whole liturgy so peculiar, so interesting, so composite, so dramatic as the office and ceremonial of Good Friday.
About the vigil office, which in early times commenced at midnight in the Roman, and at 3 a.m. in the Gallican Church, it will suffice to remark that, for 400 years past, it has been anticipated by five or six hours, but retains those peculiar features of mourning which mark the evening offices of the preceding and following day, all three being known as the Tenebrae.
The morning office is in three distinct parts. The first part consists of three lessons from Sacred Scripture (two chants and a prayer being interposed) which are followed by a long series of prayers for various intentions; the second part includes the ceremony of unveiling and adoring the Cross, accompanied by the chanting of the Improperia; the third part is known as the Mass of the Presanctified, which is preceded by a procession and followed by vespers. Each of these parts will be briefly noticed here.
The Hour of None being finished, the celebrant and ministers, clothed in black vestments, come to the altar and prostrate themselves for a short time in prayer. In the meantime, the acolytes spread a single cloth on the denuded altar. No lights are used. When the celebrant and ministers ascend the altar, a lector takes his place on the epistle side, and reads a lesson from Osee 6. This is followed by a tract sung by the choir. Next comes a prayer sung by the celebrant, which is followed by another lesson from Exodus 12, chanted by the subdeacon. This is followed by another tract (Psalm 139), at the close of which the third lesson, viz. the Passion according to St. John, is sung by the deacons or recited from a bare pulpit --"dicitur passio super nudum pulpitum". When this is finished, the celebrant sings a long series of prayers for different intentions, viz. for the Church, pope, bishop of the diocese, for the different orders in the Church, for the Roman Emperor (now omitted outside the dominions of Austria).