Tag Archive: great friday


The Loveliness of the Cross

Renunciation is nothing else than a manifestation of the cross and of dying…. Consider, then, what the cross implies, within whose mystery it behooves you henceforth to proceed in this world, since you no longer live, but he lives in you who was crucified for you…. But you might say: How can a person constantly carry a cross, and how can someone be crucified while he is still alive? …

Our cross is the fear of the Lord. Just as someone who has been crucified, then, no longer has the ability to move or to turn his limbs in any direction by an act of his mind, neither must we exercise our desires and yearnings in accordance with what is easy for us and gives us pleasure at the moment but in accordance with the law of the Lord and where it constrains us.

~ St. John Cassian, Institutes

Tonight in the Orthodox Church, we commemorate Great Friday: the crucifixion of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are cosmic dimensions to this. St. Paul tells us “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ … the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). So also, says St. John, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

This cosmic and mystical aspect of the cross historically occurs more frequently in the Byzantine Tradition.

We can also speak of the crucifixion as fulfillment of the sacrifices of old:

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man [Jesus], after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. (Hebrews 10:11-13)

This tends to be the more common Western emphasis: Christ offers himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, so that partaking of his Body and Blood we may live anew in his victory.

There is at least one more emphasis, and perhaps, from my limited reading, this is more prevalent in the Russian Tradition, understood in the historical sense (rather than present-day nations and politics). This emphasis, according to G. P. Fedotov, can be called the “kenotic” or self-emptying aspect of the Cross.

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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