Today is hung upon a tree,
he who hung the land upon the waters. (x3)
Crowned with a circlet of thorns is he,
who is the king of angels.
Wrapped in the purple of mockery is he,
who wrapped the heavens in the clouds.
Buffeted upon the face is he,
who in the Jordan set Adam free.
Joined with nails [to the cross] is he,
who is the Bridegroom of the Church.
Pierced with a spear is he,
who is the Son of the Virgin.
We venerate your passion, O Christ; (x3)
show us also your glorious Resurrection!
~ Great Friday Matins, Fifteenth Antiphon
Tonight in the Orthodox Church, we observe the matins service for Great Friday by anticipation of the coming day. Kelly and Brendan and I had intended to go, but Kelly had to work and Brendan staged a successful rebellion against napping this afternoon, so I’ve had to content myself with this reflection on the most somber and beautiful part of the service. The priest chants this hymn slowly, with a loud voice, as he processes with the acolytes and others, holding a life-sized icon of Christ crucified, which he and the faithful all venerate once he has set it at the front of the nave. Everyone kneels in the candlelight as the procession passes and all is quiet except the thundering proclamation, “Today is hung upon a tree, he who hung the land upon the waters.”
“Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom,” writes St. Paul to the Corinthians, “but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). He goes on to say, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). What does it mean to know nothing but “Jesus Christ and him crucified”? Continue reading