Commemorated on Holy Friday
Down from the tree Joseph of Arimathea took You dead, Who are the Life of all, and he wrapped You, O Christ, in a linen cloth with spices. Moved in his heart by love, he kissed Your most pure Body with his lips; yet, drawing back in fear, O Lord, he cried to You rejoicing: "Glory to Your condescension, O You Who loves mankind!"
The noble Joseph, when he had taken Your most pure Body from the tree, wrapped it in fine linen, and anointed it with spices, and laid it in a new tomb.
The angel came to the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb and said: "Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption."
Verses from the Vespers.
Before the Vespers of Good Friday, which is usually celebrated in the mid-afternoon to commemorate the burial of Jesus, a "tomb" is erected in the middle of the church building and is decorated with flowers. Also, a special icon which is painted on cloth (in Greek, epitaphios; in Slavonic, plaschanitsa) depicting the dead Savior is placed on the altar table. In English, this icon is often called the winding-sheet.
During Vespers, while the people sing the troparion of the day, the priest circles the altar table with the winding-sheet carried above his head and places it into the tomb for veneration by the faithful.
The Matins of Holy Saturday is usually celebrated on Friday night. In place of the regular psalm reading, the entire Psalm 119 is read with a verse praising the dead Savior chanted between each of the lines.
As the service progresses, while the congregation with lighted candles continually repeats the song of the Thrice-Holy, the faithful - led by the priest carrying the Gospel with the winding-sheet of Christ held over his head - go in procession around the outside of the church building. This procession bears witness to the total victory of Christ over the powers of darkness and death. The whole universe is cleansed, redeemed, and restored by the entrance of the Life of the World into death.
The Vespers and Matins of the Blessed Sabbath, together with the Divine Liturgy which follows, form a masterpiece of the Orthodox liturgical tradition. These services are not at all a dramatic re-enactment of the historical death and burial of Christ. Neither are they a kind of ritual reproduction of scenes of the Gospel. They are, rather, the deepest spiritual and liturgical penetration into the eternal meaning of the saving events of Christ, viewed and praised already with the full knowledge of their divine significance and power.
Taken from The Orthodox Faith, Vol. II: Worship, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.
Christ is nailed to the Cross. His right side is pierced and from the wound flows blood and water. At the foot of the Cross is a skull. (Golgotha, the Mount of the Crucifixion, means "the place of the skull.") Tradition related that the Cross of Christ stood directly over the grave of our Forefather Adam. On the top bar of the Cross is the inscription "I.N.B.I.", the initials for the Greek words meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." To the left of Christ, the Theotokos and St. Mary Magdalene are often pictured as well; the youthful St. John the Beloved Disciple and St. Longinus the Centurion (see Mark 15:39) are shown to the right if they are depicted.
Taken form The Icon Book, by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie, and Matusiak.
The whole creation was changed by fear, when it saw You, O Christ, hanging on the Cross. The sun was darkened and the foundations of the earth were shaken. All things suffered with the Creator of All. Of Your Own Will You endured this for our sakes, O Lord, Glory to You!
Today the Master of Creation stands before Pilate; today the Maker of All Things is given up to the Cross, and of His Own Will He is led as a Lamb to the slaughter. He Who send manna in the wilderness is transfixed with nails; His Side is pierced, and a sponge with vinegar touches His Lips. The Deliverer of the World is struck on the Face, and the Creator of All is mocked by His Own servants. How great is the Master's love for mankind! For those who crucified Him, He prayed to His Father, saying, "Forgive them this sin, for in their wickedness the know not what they do."
© 1997 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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