Holy Friday, also known as Good Friday, Black Friday, Great Friday, is a holy day observed by Christians commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death. This day is commemorated during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and often coincides with the Jewish observance of Passover.
On Great and Holy Friday, the Orthodox Church commemorates the sufferings of Christ: The mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross. “Today He Who hung the earth on the waters is hung on the tree.”
This truly holy Day is one …of solemn observation and strict fasting. “We worship Your passion and Your burial, for by them, You have saved us from death!”
In the afternoon, around 3 pm, all gather for the Vespers of the Taking-Down from the Cross, commemorating the Deposition from the Cross. The Gospel reading is a concatenation taken from all four of the Gospels. During the service, the body of Christ is removed from the cross, as the words in the Gospel reading mention Joseph of Arimathea, wrapped in a linen shroud, and taken to the altar in the sanctuary.
Near the end of the service an epitaphios or “winding sheet” (Вынос Плащаницы) a cloth embroidered with the image of Christ prepared for burial) is carried in procession to a low table in the nave which represents the Tomb of Christ; it is decorated with many flowers. The epitaphios itself represents the body of Jesus wrapped in a burial shroud, and is a roughly full-size cloth icon of the body of Christ. Then the priest may deliver a homily and everyone comes forward to venerate the epitaphios. In the Slavic practice, at the end of Vespers, Compline is immediately served, featuring a special Canon of the Crucifixion of our Lord and the Lamentation of the Most Holy Theotokos by Symeon the Logothete.
The following hymn is chanted during the Great Vespers of the Holy Friday and during the Matins of the Great Saturday.
The Noble Joseph – Благообразный Иосиф
God is the Lord and hath revealed himself unto us. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! The noble Joseph, taking down Thy most pure Body from the Tree, wrapped It in clean linen and sweet spices and laid It in a new tomb.
Бог Господь и явися нам, благословен Грядый во имя Господне!
Благообразный Иосиф, с древа снем Пречистое Тело Твое, плащаницею чистою обвив, и вонями во гробе нове покрыв положи.
Before the service begins, a “tomb” is erected in the middle of the church building and is decorated with flowers. Also a special icon which is painted on cloth (in Greek, epitaphios; in Slavonic, plaschanitsa) depicting the dead Saviour is placed on the altar table. In English this icon is often called the winding-sheet.