I’ve been invited to a Church today that I’ve not visited before, to speak at a special service marking Good Friday. Good Friday is , of course, one of the most ancient Christian festivals commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus. Which begs the question what does a man who has given up suits for Lent wear on such an occasion?
Good Friday is a rather odd name for a festival marking the execution of a religious figure. Indeed, a festival marking an execution is odd in itself. That there is a festival, and that it is given such a positive title in English indicates a particular viewpoint. In Denmark Good Friday is known as Long Friday and in Germany as Sorrowful Friday, each of which is a little more self evident as a title than Good Friday. In Latin, it is Parasceve which I am told simply means preparation, as in Day of Preparation.
It is possible that Good Friday has its origins in ‘God’s Friday’ and may be similar to the idea that ‘good bye’ may trace its origins to ‘God be with ye.’ However, we really do not know the origins of the term Good Friday.
I suspect we need to look to how Christians understand what happened on Good Friday for an explanation of the title. Christians believe that the man Jesus who was crucified on Good Friday was not only a man, though he certainly was that. They also believe that he was the Son of God and that through his death on Good Friday he conquered death for the whole of creation.
If you are not religious, I recognise that this may sound like religious mumbo jumbo. However, if you are at all open to the possibilities, this is heady stuff. A Christian understanding of Good Friday is that God became a human, just like us, demonstrating his humanity in that he died in the same way that all living things eventually die. However, this death is unique for it is in a real sense the death of God.
Good Friday points to Easter, with its focus on resurrection and new life. Those of us who live in the northern hemisphere have the good fortune that Easter and Spring often coincide. Though this year in Britain we feel to be still in the depths of winter, more commonly the whole world seems to be coming back to life just at the time when Easter is celebrated.
However, it is important for many Christians to try to avoid the temptation simply to collapse Good Friday into Easter, to fast forward to resurrection without actually pausing to deal with death.
So a Good Friday service is a solemn one. It is not a vigil grieving the death of Christ. But it is not a service to celebrate his resurrection. That is to come on this Sunday.
This brings us back to the critical question: What does one wear on Good Friday? My instinct was to go for some variation on black. This would capture some of the solemnity of the occasion, but not look like funeral wear. My wife went for a snazzy number – plain black dress with vibrant purple cardigan. Brilliant at so many levels. Purple is a Lenten colour and a great thing to wear on the penultimate day of Lent. But the purple also infuses some colour and vibrancy into a largely black ensemble.
In the end I decided on black shirt and trousers combined with khaki waistcoat and olive tweed blazer, garnished with black and khaki spotted silk handkerchief and Jaguar cufflinks. I think it looks better than it sounds.
Best wishes for Good Friday.