Category: Pascha


Great Friday: Christ Crucified

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

Lazarus Saturday: Come and See

By Your word, O Word of God, Lazarus now leaps out of death, having returned to this life. Therefore the peoples honor You with their branches, O Mighty One; for You shall destroy Hades utterly by Your own death.

By means of Lazarus has Christ already plundered you, O death. Where is your victory, O Hades? For the lament of Bethany is handed over now to you. Let us all wave against it our branches of victory.

~ Exaposteilaria, Saturday of St. Lazarus. Tone 3

Today is Lazarus Saturday, when we commemorate, just before Palm Sunday, the last Sunday before Pascha (Easter), the resurrection of St. Lazarus from the dead by Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John reports that this drew so much attention to Jesus that it served as a major impetus for those who opposed him to plot his death: “Then, from that day on, they plotted to put him to death” (John 11:53). But death, as the story of the raising of Lazarus shows us, was not something Jesus intended to avoid. Continue reading

A Soul on Fire

[L]et us acquire the pure and guileless tears that come with the remembrance that we must die. There is nothing false in these, no sop to self-esteem. Rather do they purify us, lead us on in love of God, wash away our sins and drain away our passions.

~ St. John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 7

Given the morbid nature of the practice, it is refreshing to see St. John Climacus connect tears and sadness with meditation on one’s mortality. To assert that we ought not grieve for death, pace the Stoics, would be inhuman indeed.

Continue reading

Face to Face

Said Abba Elias: “I fear three things: the first, the time just before my soul goes out from my body: the second, the time just before I meet God face to face: the third, the time just before he pronounces his sentence upon me.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 3.4

For a long, but relevant, read with regards to the subject at hand, see Richard John Neuhaus’s “Born Toward Dying,” which I just read today with the thought of death especially on my mind. Continue reading

A Mania of Love

Just as human affection, when it abounds, overpowers those who love and causes them to be beside themselves, so God’s love for men emptied God.

~ St. Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, 6.3

St. Nicholas Cabasilas lived in the middle ages, which is later than I usually go for sayings to reflect on. However, this one struck me as too profound not to share. I have written before on how our love for Christ can take on a romantic quality—that overpowering eros that compels us to leave everything to follow Jesus. But according to St. Nicholas, that is only half the story, and the beauty of the other half outshines the former as the light of the sun outshines the moon and the stars: God loved us in this way first. Continue reading

Christ is Risen!

Again, I thought of writing my own reflection, but I think I’d rather just share, for those who have not read it or heard it, the Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom. This is read every year in every Orthodox parish on Pascha (Easter), and it is one of the highlights of the night. (We begin at 11pm.) Pascha, for us, is a season that begins with the feast today and does not end until forty days later on the feast of the Ascension. Thus, I’m sure I will have plenty of time for my own words. But for now, I will simply say that all the hope and joy and triumph and peace of Christianity is summed up in the single phrase: “Christ is risen!” Continue reading