On this day, Holy and Great Friday, we celebrate the awesome, holy, and saving Passion of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ – the spitting, the blows with the palm of the hand, the buffeting, the mockery, the reviling, the wearing of the purple robe, the reed, the sponge, the vinegar, the nailing, the lance, and above all, the Crucifixion and Death which He condescended to endure willingly for our sakes – and also the saving confession of the grateful thief upon the cross.
Verses for the Crucifixion
Thou art a living God, even though Thou wast lifeless on the Wood. O naked corpse, Thou art the Word of the living God.
Verses for the Penitent Thief
The thief opened the locked gates of Eden, With the key, "Remember me".
The Matins service for Great and Holy Friday (served on Thursday evening) includes the 12 Gospel readings and recounts the arrest, trial, humiliation, suffering, and execution of our Lord, the Son of God Himself. It is a long and exhausting service, but should it not be the case that a service that recounts the long and exhausting ordeal our Lord was subjected to be discomfiting and tiring? During this service, we are invited, in a very small way, to identify with our Lord’s suffering and try, as best we can, to understand what it is He endured on our behalf. Think now of this verse from the Gospel of Matthew:
“When he returned to the disciples and found them sleeping, he said to Peter, “Could you not watch with me for one hour?”
The Lord suffered what He did because we continually fall into sin. We are the cause of His crucifixion. Though He volunteered to endure it, had we not fallen, His sacrifice would not have been necessary. Is it too much to ask that we watch and pray while the Lord prepares Himself to be delivered up to death so that we might be delivered from it? It is a small thing to ask, is it not? He asks so little of us and is willing to give all of Himself in return. And, yet, sometimes we think that that little He asks of us is too much…
The Passion of our Lord and the 12 Gospel readings are not all about the Lord’s suffering, however. This service also anticipates His glorification, His victory over death and His Resurrection. While the enemy of life eagerly anticipated his own impending victory over his own creator, in fact, the gates of Hades were about to be torn down and death was about to be defeated once and for all! Thus we are reminded that we are not here re-enacting a tragedy but rather the greatest triumph the world has ever known!
The Twelve Gospel readings are:
John 13:31-38; 14-18:1
John 18:28-40; 19:1-16
by Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios)
On Great Friday
we commemorate the Holy, Saving and Terrible Passion of our
Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.
“And they crucified Him” (Mark 15:1-41; Col. 1:3-5)
Great Friday! The Crucifixion!
The greatest crime in history. Man crucifies his God, having previously ridiculed Him.
“Behold the Man”.
Fallen man, the way sin made him.
By pointing to Jesus, Pilate was actually showing fallen mankind as undertaken by God’s Word. Poor man! The story of Jesus shows your abysmal poverty in the face of His own abysmal wealth. And God insists. He wants to lift you up. He wants to show you the magnitude of your crime to show the richness of His own goodness in forgiveness.
It was from these burning lips on the cross that forgiveness was given. And from His speared side, the “new creation” of man took place. We crucified Him, and from the sufferings we caused Him He gave birth to our salvation.
A famous painter in his painting on the Raising of Jesus on the Cross, among the people who raised the dead body of the Lord, he placed himself. When asked, he answered that he too, through his way of life, had many nails driven into the Body of Christ.
Poor soul! You also were there when they crucified Christ.
Your eyes are now filled with tears. You humbly asked forgiveness. So come and die with Jesus. “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God… Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Let me die, Lord, to sin, this is what Your divine Heart longed for!
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You redeemed us from the curse of the law
by Your precious Blood.
Having been nailed to the Cross and pierced with a spear,
You poured forth immortality upon mankind.
O our Savior, glory to You.