April 3, 2015 </br>Great and Holy Friday

April 3, 2015
Great and Holy Friday

According to the Typikon, Vespers should begin at 4:00 pm. Many Ukrainian parishes have a custom of holding this service in the late morning, and I often wondered why. When I spent Holy Week in L’viv in 1991, I suddenly understood: the early time was set to allow people a few more hours to come to kiss the Shroud! At the large churches in L’viv, there were never-ending lines of the faithful, around the clock, from Good Friday morning until midnight Holy Saturday evening, people coming to kiss the Shroud. It was an amazing witness of faith.

The liturgical poetry of Good Friday takes delight in the paradox of God Immortal experiencing death as a human being, of the Creator of All being crucified. We consider the cosmic significance of the Crucifixion:

“All creation was changed by fear, when it beheld You hanging on the Cross, O Christ. The sun was darkened and the foundations of the earth trembled. All creation suffered with the One Who created all things.”

After the Entrance at Vespers, we continue the readings from Exodus, Job, and Isaias, and then the Epistle: “to us who are being saved the message of the Cross is the power of God!” The Gospel lesson again recounts the Passion and Death of the Lord.

At the Aposticha, we sing in honour of Joseph of Arimathea, the timorous disciple who found his courage and went to ask Pontius Pilate for the Body of Christ, and buried the Body in his own new tomb. At the death and burial of Christ, the sun was darkened, the earth quaked, the curtain of the temple was ripped in half from top to bottom, Hell itself was frightened, and the graves opened in Jerusalem and many of the dead arose and came into the Holy City.

During the Aposticha the bishop or the senior priest (in full vestments, as though for the Divine Liturgy) censes around the Holy Table of the Altar, where the Shroud is waiting. The concelebrating clergy also fully vested, bring the Shroud from the Altar into the center of the church and process with all the faithful thrice around the building. The procession returns to the center of the nave, where the “tomb” is waiting, decorated with flowers, with candles, and with a canopy. After the Lord’s Prayer we sing:

“The Noble Joseph took down Your most pure Body from the Cross; anointing it with spices, he wrapped it in a pure linen shroud, and placed it in a new tomb.”

And normally the priest will then give a sermon. Following the Dismissal, we all come and venerate the Shroud; in Slav use there is another Hymn in praise of Saint Joseph of Arimathea.

In Transcarpathia there is a custom of pious people to remain in church after the service and chant the Canon of the Lamentations of the Holy Mother of God.

There is a particular temptation of which we must be wary on Good Friday. We may be tempted to feel self-righteous. It was “bad” people who killed Jesus Christ in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. We are tempted to think that we are not like them—after all, we put up beautiful Tombs in our churches, we deck the Holy Shroud with abundant flowers!

One answer, of course, is simply to look in the mirror and realize that we are sinful people, in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy. And that is perfectly true. Spiritual pride has no place in the Christian life.

But there is a more important answer. The shocking reality is that it was not “bad” people who crucified Jesus Christ. It was the very best people who did it! It was not the pagan priests of Moloch, accustomed to burn children alive in Carthage, who schemed to put the Lord on the Cross; it was the High Priest of Israel, the servant of genuine monotheism, who said that “It is expedient that one man should die for the sake of the people.” It was not the Communists or the Nazis or some other group who made a mockery of law and justice who condemned Jesus Christ to death: it was the Roman Governor, the representative of the best legal system of the ancient world. It was the Roman Governor, who was bound to uphold the famous Twelve Tables of the Law—and who washed his hands of the case, shrugged his shoulders, remarked cynically “What is Truth?” and knowingly handed over an innocent Man to be crucified.

This is what had happened to the human race. The very best had gone “bad.” The lesson here is, again, humility, and the realization that we cannot be “good” apart from Christ. Apart from Christ, everything deteriorates, everything goes “bad.” Only in Christ is there eternal goodness and eternal life. (Bishop Basil Losten)


At Psalm 140

In Tone 1

6. The whole creation was changed by fear,
when it saw You, O Christ, hanging on the Cross.
The sun was darkened,
and the foundations of the earth were shaken.
All things suffered with the Creator of all.
Of Your will You have endured this for our sakes.
O Lord, glory to You.

5. The whole creation was changed by fear,
when it saw You, O Christ, hanging on the Cross.
The sun was darkened,
and the foundations of the earth were shaken.
All things suffered with the Creator of all.
Of Your will You have endured this for our sakes.
O Lord, glory to You.

In Tone 2

4. Why do the impious and transgressing people imagine vain things?
Why have they condemned to death the Life of all?
O mighty wonder! The Creator of the world is delivered into the hands of lawless men,
and He who loves mankind is raised upon the Cross,
that He may free the prisoners in hell who cry:
O long-suffering Lord, glory to You!

3. Today the most pure Virgin
saw You hanging on the Cross, O Word,
and with a mother’s love, she wept,
and bitterly her heart was wounded.
She groaned in anguish from the depth of her soul.
And in her grief she struck her face
and tore her hair,
and beating her breast, she cried, lamenting:
Woe is me, my Divine Child!
Woe is me, O Light of the world!
Why do You vanish from my sight, O Lamb of God?
Then the hosts of angels were seized with trembling,
and they said:
O Lord beyond our understanding, glory to You!

2. Seeing You hanging on the Cross,
O Christ and Creator and God of all,
bitterly Your Virgin Mother cried:
O my Son, where is the beauty of Your form?
I cannot bear to look upon You crucified unjustly.
Make haste, then, to arise,
that I, too, may see
Your Resurrection on the third day from the dead.

In Tone 6

1. Today the Master stands before Pilate,
today the Maker of all things is given up to the Cross,
and of His own will is led as a lamb to the slaughter.
He who sent manna in the wilderness is transfixed with nails.
His side is pierced,
and sponge with vinegar touches His lips.
The Deliverer of the world is struck on the face
and the Creator of all is mocked by His own servants.
How great is the Master’s love for mankind!
For those who crucified Him,
He prayed to His Father, saying:
Forgive them this sin,
for in their wickedness, they know not what they do.


See how the lawless synagogue has condemned to death the King of the Creation!
They were not ashamed when he recalled His blessings, saying:
O My people, what have I done to you?
Have I not filled Judea with miracles?
Have I not raised the dead by My word alone?
Have I not healed every sickness and disease?
How then, have you repaid me?
Why have you forgotten Me?
In return for healing, you have given Me blows;
in return for life, you are putting Me to death.
You hang upon the Cross your benefactor as an evildoer,
your Lawgiver as a transgressor of the Law,
the King of all as one condemned.
O long-suffering Lord, glory to You!


A dread and marvellous mystery we see come to pass this day:
He whom none may touch is seized.
He who looses Adam from the curse is bound.
He who tries the hearts and inner thoughts of man is unjustly brought to trial.
He who closes the abyss is shut in prison,
He before whom the powers of heaven stand, with trembling stands before Pilate.
The Creator is struck by the hand of His creature,
he who comes to judge the living and the dead is condemned to the Cross,
the destroyer of hell is enclosed in a tomb.
O You who endure all these things in Your tender love
who have saved all men from the curse,
O long-suffering Lord, glory to You!

Prokeimenon, Tone 4
They parted my garments among them,* and cast lots upon my vesture.
verse: O God, my God, look upon me; why have you forsaken me?

Reading I
Exodus 33:11-23

Prokeimenon, Tone 4
Judge them, O Lord, that wrong me,* fight against them that fight against me.
verse: They rewarded me evil for good.

Reading II
Job 42:12-17

Reading III
Isaiah 52:13-54:1

Prokeimenon, Tone 6
They laid me in the lowest pit, in dark places,* and in the shadow of death.
verse: O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before You.

1 Corinthians 1:18-2:2

Alleluia, Tone 6
verse: Save me, O God, for the waters are come in, even unto my soul.
verse: They gave me gall to eat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
verse: Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see.

Matthew 27:1-38; Luke 23:39-43; Matthew 27:39-54; John 19:31-37; Matthew 27:5-61


In Tone 2

Down from the Tree Joseph of Arimathea
took You dead who are the Life of all,
and he wrapped You, O Christ, in a linen cloth with spices.
Moved in his heart by love,
he kissed Your most pure body with his lips;
yet drawing back in fear, he cried to You, rejoicing:
Glory to Your self-abasement, O Lover of mankind!

The Lord reigns,* he is clothed in majesty.

When you, the Redeemer of all
were laid for the sake of all in a new tomb,
hell was brought to scorn,
and seeing You, drew back in fear.
The bars were broken and the gates were shattered,
the tombs were opened and the dead arose.
Then Adam in thanksgiving and rejoicing cried to You:
Glory to Your self-abasement, O Lover of mankind.

For He has made the word firm,* which shall not be moved.

In the flesh You were of Your own will
enclosed within the tomb,
yet in Your divine nature Your remain uncircumscribed and limitless.
You have shut up the treasury of hell, O Christ,
and emptied all his palaces.
You honoured this Sabbath with Your divine blessing,
with Your glory and Your radiance.

Holiness befits Your house, O Lord,* for length of days.

The powers of heaven beheld You, O Christ,
falsely accused by lawless men as a deceiver,
and they saw the stone before the tomb
sealed by the hands which pierced Your most pure side,
and they were filled with fear at Your ineffable forbearance.

In Tone 5, Glory… Now…

You were naked and cold in death,
O You who wear light as a robe,
and the noble Joseph and Nicodemus
removed You from the Cross,
with grief and tears so tender.
And Joseph mourned and prayed:
O what has happened, O gentle Jesus?
The sun saw You suspended on the Cross
and shrouded itself in darkness.
The earth quaked with fear
and the temple veil was rent asunder!
For my sake, O Saviour, You willingly endured the Passion.
How then shall I array Your Body, O my God?
How then shall I wrap You in this shroud?
How then shall I hymn Your burial?
O my Lord most merciful,
Your death and rising shall I praise
as I sing: O Lord, glory be to You!


The noble Joseph took Your most pure Body down from the Cross.* He wrapped it in a clean linen with aromatic spices* and sadly laid it in a new tomb. (3)

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