Holy Friday (Good Friday) involves the second-most dramatic service of the Church year, the reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion, death and entombment.
Late in the morning, the priest will instal the Epitaphios (an icon embroidered on silk, of Christ’s dead body lying surrounded by his mother and his closest followers) on the altar.
An image of a Georgian epitaphios from Mtskheta can be seen here
A wooden icon of Christ crucified is placed in the centre of the church.
The service of the Deposition from the Cross involves a number of gospel readings recounting Christ’s Passion, death and removal from the cross. Before the service, the Icon is removed from the centre of the church and moved to the sanctuary.
Towards the end of the service, the Epitaphios is borne by the priests, as if they are pall-bearers, from the altar to a table in the centre of the church, representing Christ’s tomb. The priest carrying the Gospel walks beneath the Epitaphios. The Epitaphios is reverently laid down on the table, surrounded by flowers, as a recapitulation of His entombment, and a copy of the Gospel placed on top of the Epitaphios. The congregation will have already surrounded the tomb with flowers, eggs dipped in red dye, cakes, and even small punnets of sprouting barley. Some of this symbolism may be pre-Christian in origin but is consistent with Christian principles.
The “tomb” is censed and the congregation will file past to venerate the Epitaphios within the “tomb”.
The hymns for this service are very beautiful; Paliashvili’s arrangement of the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!) is commonly sung.
Services at Sameba and Sioni cathedrals start at 2 pm Friday; if attending, you will need to arrive at least an hour early to get into the church.