Christians all over the county today will relive Good Friday by attending church services and reading the gospels accounts of the death of Jesus. Some refrain from eating meat, in recognition of Jesus' suffering on the cross; others drape their sanctuaries in black.
Father Thomas Schmidt of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Odenton recalls the solemnity of Good Friday in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he grew up. All stores closed from noon to 3 p.m. in recognition of Jesus' crucifixion. And, in keeping with Good Friday lore, it always seemed to be a cloudy day.
Even today, "If it's a bright, sunny day, it doesn't seem like Good Friday," the priest says.
Few stores close nowadays, and parents who grew up in homes where the day was kept in extreme solemnity, indoors, are often not as strict with their own children, ministers say.
But the meaning of the day remains, says Schmidt. The best way to honor the day is to remember "why (Jesus) did all this, because heloved us. He said that as he loved us, we are to love one another. It's a good day to give that love to other people."
Anne Arundel County churches are celebrating Good Friday with a variety of services,ranging from morning prayer at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church to a 3 p.m. service at St. Joseph's. The afternoon devotional service is for church members who wish to observe the Stations of theCross, which portray the passion of Christ.
Most Catholic churches also will have evening communion services today, but Schmidt pointsout that no Mass will be conducted.
"It's the only day of the year when there is no celebration of the Mass," he says. "The idea is that today Christ died. He gave us the Mass, and in the Mass we receiveJesus. It's an empty day in that sense for every Catholic church throughout the world." The communion host being served tonight was consecrated yesterday, Schmidt says.
Many Protestant churches are holding a Tenebrae service, also called the Service of Darkness. Tenebrae is the Latin word for darkness, signifying the darkness that the gospels report fell over the earth during the early afternoon hours that Christ hung on the cross.
For example, at First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, a service was held last night that began with Holy Communion, followed by a procession into the church. The service, whichincluded scripture reading and music, dramatized the last days of Christ.
Other Protestant churches are holding similar Tenebrae services this afternoon and tonight. The focal point of the gatherings is the ending, which takes place in pitch darkness.
At an ecumenical service sponsored by Severna park churches, held from noon to 3 p.m. at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, the Tenebrae will begin with 10 lighted candles.
As the service progresses, candles are put out until there are no lights in the chancel, says the Rev. Elmer Zick, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church.
"The darkness indicates the spirit of the day, the somberness over the fact that death has taken one who waswithout sin," says Zick.
After the lights go out, everything in the church chancel -- Bibles and candelabra -- will be removed, leaving the altar symbolically empty.
A Bible will be opened and shut with a loud crash to indicate the stone being rolled in front of the tomb. Christ has died. There is silence. The faithful leave in darkness, to wait for Easter morning.