April 14, 2023

Journey Through Holy Week: Holy and Great Friday

The Revered Passion

On Holy and Great Friday, we remember the holy and saving and dreadful Passion of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ: the spittings, the blows on the face and the blows on the neck, the insults, the laughter, the fake red cloak, the reed, the sponge, the vinegar, the nails, the spear and above all the Cross and Death, which He willingly accepted for us. We also remember the saving confession made on the cross by the grateful thief who
was crucified with Christ.

Tonight, the Matins of Great Friday will be celebrated. It is called the Service of the Passion or the Service of the Crucifixion.

The Twelve Gospel readings of the day describe these shocking events with modest majesty and dispassion, proof of the authenticity of the events, the authenticity of the meanings, but also of the "Royal" (divine) origins of the Crucified One.

Between the fifth and sixth Gospels, the Crucified One is carried around by the Priests who recite "Today is suspended upon the tree", and he is placed in the center of the temple for worship by the faithful.

The people also call it "Service of the Twelve Gospels", because its dominant element is the Twelve Gospel readings, from all the Evangelists.

However, what the faithful usually overlook, due to their delayed arrival, is the first Gospel, which is of the Evangelist John and contains the last words of Christ to his Disciples during the Secret Supper and immediately after the departure of Judas, when the eleven who truly loved Him were present. It contains a wealth of meanings and theology. Especially the so-called High Priestly Prayer of Christ.

That is, when Christ stopped speaking to his Disciples, He looked up and addressed God His Father, with a prayer that John the Evangelist, who was next to him, preserved.

Immediately after, Christ and His Disciples went to Gethsemane, where the soldiers arrested Him.

On Great Friday morning we celebrate the Unnailing.

Today is suspended upon the Tree, He who suspended the land upon the waters.
A crown of thorns crowns Him, Who is the King of the angels.
He is wrapped about with a purple of mockery, Who wrapped the heavens with clouds.
He receives smiting, He Who freed Adam in the Jordan.
He is transfixed with nails, Who is the Bridegroom of the Church.
He is pierced with a spear, Who is the Son of the Virgin.
We venerate Thy Passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy Glorious Resurrection.
(Troparion for Matins on Great Friday)
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He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
(Prophet Isaiah 53:7-9)

"The humility of Christ is a power that conquers everything... Humility is a characteristic of Divine Love, which, in its openness to creation, meekly accepts every wound, from the beings it created." (St. Sophrony Sakharov)

The Fifth Saying of Christ on the Cross: "I Thirst."

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

(From the book The Feasts of the Lord)

The fifth saying of Christ on the Cross refers to the tragedy of His thirst. He said: "I thirst" (John 18:28). The Evangelist John says: "After this, Jesus knowing that everything had already been complete, so that the scriptures may be fulfilled, said, 'I thirst'" (Jn. 18:28).

And this was prophesied in the Old Testament, in what is called a Psalm "of Understanding". There, after the psalmist refers to the abandonment of Christ and to many other points of the Crucifixion which are related to the bloodthirsty Jews and their horrid behavior, he then says: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws. You have brought me down into the dust of death" (Ps. 21:16).

The holy Evangelist says that Christ said the words "I thirst" so that this prophecy would also be fulfilled. This is true, but it must be understood that the Prophet David, when he referred to Christ's thirst, saw what would happen, and not that Christ said it simply to fulfill the prophecy.

Thirst is caused by the very dryness of the body, by dehydration, and then the body needs to receive water to replace its loss. This also happened to Christ. What preceded, and especially the long stay on the Cross, the loss of blood and water caused unbearable thirst.

This shows that the body of Christ on the Cross was a real body and not an imaginary one, and also that Christ really suffered for the salvation of man.

Of course, we must also see this from the point of view that nothing was necessarily done to Christ, since He Himself suffered, thirsted, when He willed to suffer and thirst, because when He willed it, the divine nature allowed the human nature to suffer what was its own.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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