Friday, April 02, 2010

Ode to Christ crucified

By the tree of the cross you have healed the bitterness of the tree,
     and have opened Paradise to humans. Glory be to you, Lord!
Now we are no longer prevented from coming to the tree of life;
     we have hope in your cross. Glory be to you, Lord!
O Immortal One, nailed to the wood,
     you have triumphed over the snares of the devil. Glory be to you, Lord!
You, who for my sake have submitted to being placed on the cross,
     accept my vigilant celebration of praise, O Christ, God, friend of humans.
Lord of the heavenly armies, who knows my carelessness of soul,
     save me by your cross O Christ, God, friend of humans.
Brighter than fire, more luminous than flame,
     have you shown the wood of your cross, O Christ.
Burn away the sins of the sick and enlighten the hearts of those who,
     with hymns, celebrate your voluntary crucifixion. Christ, God, glory to you!
Christ, God, who for us accepted a sorrowful crucifixion,
     accept all who sing hymns to your passion, and save us.

- from the Byzantine liturgy for Holy Friday

Holy Friday, also known as Good Friday in English speaking countries, is a very difficult event to remember rightly in common worship. There is so much to say, and yet silence and tears are often the most apt response. Sorrow and love flow mingled down.

For on this day the Gospel narrative reaches its climax and the narration slows to a snail's pace, or to the pace of a man stumbling under an impossibly heavy burden. It is at once darkest tragedy and yet, mysteriously, also deepest triumph. Here is sin and human failure. Here is death and hell and destruction. Here is one man's faithfulness, even in anguish. Here is damnation - and salvation.

Behold the man upon the cross! Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Behold the Son, in whom the Father takes delight! Behold our death in his death! Behold our life in his unconquered love!