Good Friday Rites Today; Sermons Set on 'Seven Last Words' Christians Mark Day of Mourning, Penance, Fasting

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Byline: Brenda Piquero Tuazon

Christendom marks its darkest hour today, Good Friday, amid the silence of cathedral bells stilled since Palm Sunday, as it recalls the death of Jesus of Nazareth on the Cross on Mount Calvary outside the walls of Jerusalem.

While there are no masses in Catholic churches today, a day of fasting and abstinence, sermons on the "Seven Last Words" or "Siete Palabras" will be delivered in churches starting at noon, ending at 3 p.m., the time of Jesus' death.

At the Vatican in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI will bear a wooden cross in a procession around the ruins of the ancient Colosseum where the early Christians were sent to their death.

In Jerusalem, thousands of pilgrims, under heavy police security, will trace the steps of Jesus along the "Via Dolorosa" or the "Way of Sorrow" to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the spot where Jesus was crucified.

Crucifixion was the most cruel form of capital punishment in ancient times for slaves and those who posed a threat to the government. This was the sentence meted out to Jesus by the people, after the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate refused to decide on His fate and washed his hands.

It was a primitive method of execution widely carried out by the Roman Empire for crimes of murder, piracy, robbery, false testimony, high treason, mutiny, and rebellion to enemies of the state, where the doomed man was tied or nailed to a wooden cross and left to hang until death.

Jesus was nailed on the cross hours after reaching Mount Calvary by walking, with a heavy wooden cross on His back and a crown of thorns on His Head, followed by a jeering crowd that only a few days ago had cheered His return to the city of Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Matthew says that at the hour of Christ's crucifixion, a partial eclipse took place following a great earthquake. Thus darkness fell on Jerusalem after Jesus had spoken his "Seven Last Words."

In Philippine churches today, the faithful will find altars bare with all religious images draped in black but the door of the is wide open.

The streets of Metro Manila and other key cities of the country will be empty as its residents who originally came from the provinces have gone home to their families for the annual Holy Week reunions.

In cities and towns all over the country, processions with flower-decked "carrozas" carrying the images of the Crucified Christ will be held after sunset.

The image of St. Veronica carrying a piece of handkerchief she used in wiping the bloodied face of Jesus that left its imprint on the tiny cloth, will be a prominent image in today's Good Friday processions.

Today, the faithful will find comfort in the gospel of John that states:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. …