On Good Friday, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It marks the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins.
The church service itself begins with the Matins service on Thursday evening. The twelve Gospel readings are chanted, beginning with Christ’s discourse at the Last Supper and ending with the account of His burial. After the reading of the fifth Gospel, the priest proceeds to carry the cross around the Church while he chants the Fifteenth Antiphon. The faithful then approach and reverently kiss the cross which has been placed at the front of the church.
On Friday morning, the services of the Royal Hours are observed. These services are primarily readings of prayers, hymns, and passages from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels. Women and young girls gather after the services to decorate the epitaphio (the tomb of Christ) with flowers.
The Vespers of Friday afternoon are a continuation of the Royal Hours. During this service, the Body of Christ is removed from the cross and wrapped in a white sheet, as hymns and excerpts from the Old Testament are read. The priest then carries the cloth on which the Body of Christ is painted or embroidered around the church before placing it inside the epitaphio.
The Procession of the Epitaphio:
On the night of Good Friday, a unique service known as ‘The Lamentation of the Tomb’ is celebrated. Chanting of the Lamentations is interspersed with the Trisagion, as the epitaphio is carried around the outside of the church with the faithful following behind.
Some churches observe the practice of holding the epitaphio at the door, above waist level, so the faithful can bow down under it as they come back into the church.
At the end of the night, it is considered a special gift to get some flowers from the epitaphio and keep them at home around an icon. The flowers are blessed and the faithful and his or her family will be blessed the whole year.
At Home Activities:
- Make an epitaphio of Christ out of cardboard or a shoebox. Decorate it with flowers, tissue paper and things you have at home.
- Light a candle at home and sing along with the Lamentations during the Epitaphios Service.