In the last week before Easter (Holy Week), special services are held in all Orthodox churches, which remember the last days of the earthly life of Jesus Christ. One such service is the Good Friday Matins.
On Good Friday, the Orthodox Church commemorates the crucifixion and death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Considering that the daily cycle of services in the Church begins on the evening before the event, the Good Friday Matins service starts on Thursday. This service in the language of the church charter is called the following of the saving Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Usually the Matins service with the reading of the 12 Passionate Gospels (which is why the service is called the service of the 12 Passionate Gospels) begins at six o'clock on Thursday evening. In some parishes, services can begin at five o'clock in the evening.
As the name suggests, the main feature of the Good Friday Matins service is the reading of 12 passages from the Gospels telling about the passions (sufferings) of Jesus Christ, as well as his crucifixion and death. During the service, excerpts from all four Gospels are read, since all four evangelists contain stories about the sufferings of the Lord, because it was through this, according to the belief of the Church, that salvation was granted to man.
All 12 Gospel passages are evenly distributed in the Matins sequence. These Scripture readings are a central part of the Good Friday Matins service. It is worth noting that the Gospels are not read in the altar, as is customary, but in the center of the temple.
Besides the reading of the Passionate Gospels, there is another unique feature in worship. After reading the first five passages of the sacred texts, the choir sings (or the psalmist reads) special prayers called antiphons. They reveal the deep spiritual meaning of the events of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
In Russia there is a pious tradition of listening to the reading of the Gospels with lighted candles. After reading the last passage of the New Testament, some believers do not extinguish the candles, but try to preserve the fire and bring it into their home. This fire is used to light the lamps. Some, with the help of holy fire, depict small signs of the cross on the doorposts located above the front door.