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Why Is Good Friday Good?

The theological reason for the name

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The Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan. (Photo by Scott P. Richert)

The Cross in the Woods in Indian River, Michigan, is the world's largest crucifix. Completed in August 1959, it was declared a national shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on September 15, 2006.

(Photo by Scott P. Richert) Icon of Extreme Humility. (Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)

Icon of Extreme Humility (Christ being lowered into the tomb).

(Photo by Scott P. Richert)

Question: If Good Friday is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified, why is Good Friday called good?

Answer: Why is Good Friday "good"? That question puzzles not only children but many adults as well. After all, it isn't obvious that we should call Good Friday good, since it is the day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. How can Good Friday be good when it commemorates the day on which the sins of mankind brought about the death of our Savior?

The Baltimore Catechism declares that Good Friday is called good because Christ, by His Death, "showed His great love for man, and purchased for him every blessing." Good, in this sense, means "holy," and indeed Good Friday is known as Holy and Great Friday among Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. Good Friday is also known as Holy Friday in the Romance languages.

Thus the answer given by the Baltimore Catechism seems a good explanation, except for the fact that Good Friday is called good only in English. In its entry on Good Friday, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes that:

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.

If Good Friday were called good because English adopted the German phrase, then we would expect Gute Freitag to be the common German name for Good Friday, but it is not. Instead, Germans refer to Good Friday as Karfreitag—that is, Sorrowful or Suffering Friday—in German.

So, in the end, the historical origins of why Good Friday is called Good Friday remain unclear, but the theological reason is very likely the one expressed by the Baltimore Catechism: Good Friday is good because the death of Christ, as terrible as it was, led to the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, which brought new life to those who believe.

More FAQs About Good Friday
 When Is Good Friday?
 Is Good Friday a Holy Day of Obligation?
 Can Catholics Eat Meat on Good Friday?
 Should Communion Be Distributed on Good Friday?

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