Friday, April 06, 2007
Great and Holy Friday
We were able to attend a church service last night commemorating the sufferings of our Lord. Readings from the Gospels were interspersed with prayers and songs, praises and petitions. I have never experienced anything like it; it was mournful, haunting, and yet filled with hope. We, unlike the first disciples, already know "the rest of the story", but I was better able to identify with them than I've ever been before. I realized that, in my experience, Good Friday has usually passed fairly quietly. I have tried to focus my mind on Jesus and what He did for us on that day, but coming together with other believers to remember it was powerful and moving in a way I've never known. It's sets the tone for the next few days and helps to prepare our hearts for the Resurrection.
Here are a few phrases from the service that I found particularly moving:
He who clothed Himself with light as with a garment, stood naked at the judgement; and received blows from the hands which He had fashioned.
Today is hung upon the Cross, He who suspended the earth amid the waters. A crown of thorns crowns Him, Who is the King of Angels. He, who wrapped the Heavens in clouds, is clothed with the purple of mockery.
Throughout the service we were reminded of the thief, who through his faith and confession of Christ, found a place in God's kingdom, and we were admonished to emulate him: Because of a tree, Adam was estranged from Paradise; because of the wood of the Cross, the thief abode in Paradise; for the former, in tasting, disobeyed the commandment of the Creator; but the latter, who was crucified with You, confessed, admitting to You, the concealed God. O Saviour; remember also us, in Your Kingdom.
And were were reminded of why Jesus suffered and died, and led to praise Him: You were crucified O Christ, for my sake, to become the source of my forgiveness. And Your side was pierced, that You might cause streams of life to flow for me.
You ransomed us from the curse of the law, by Your precious blood; You shed forth immortality upon mankind, being nailed to the Cross and pierced with a spear. O Saviour of us all, glory to You.
And finally, these words that I read this morning: "In Christ, who is the New Adam, there is no sin. And, therefore, there is no death. He accepted death because He assumed the whole tragedy of our life. He chose to pour His life into death, in order to destroy it; and in order to break the hold of evil. His death is the final and ultimate revelation of His perfect obedience and love. He suffered for us the excruciating pain of absolute solitude and alienation - "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!" (Mark 15:34). Then, He accepted the ultimate horror of death with the agonizing cry, "It is finished" (John 19:30). His cry was at one and the same time an indication that He was in control of His death and that His work of redemption was accomplished, finished, fulfilled. How strange! While our death is radical unfulfillment, His is total fulfillment.
The day of Christ's death has become our true birthday. "Within the mystery of Christ dead and resurrected, death acquires positive value. Even if physical, biological death still appears to reign, it is no longer the final stage in a long destructive process. It has become the indispensable doorway, as well as the sure sign of our ultimate Pascha, our passage from death to life, rather than from life to death." (From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website.)
However you celebrate it, I pray that your remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus will be meaningful and bring glory to Him. Have a blessed weekend!