As we enter the Nave of the Church on Holy Friday afternoon, we can prominantly see Jesus still hanging on the cross in front of the Iconostasis. We prostrate ourselves before this ominous scene. In short order, whatever Nietzsche might have meant by his famed quote, is now at least literally true.
From where we stand, I crouch down to my eldest son Nicholas and point to the cross, "Jesus is dead."
He ponders this thought for a moment and I notice that his eyes are drawn to the icon of the Theotokos behind and to the left of Jesus' body. "Oh, Mary will be sad!"
"Yes, I am sure she is. Now we will take Jesus down and bury him."
The clergy move solemnly out of the sanctuary and pull the nails from him and wrap him in a fine linen cloth - just as the Noble Joseph did...and in a sense does. They take the shrouded body and lay Him upon the altar, truly the passover lamb slain for us...and we sing:
Joseph together with Nicodemus took Thee down from the tree,
who clothest Thyself with light as with a garment.
He gazed on Thy Body - dead, naked and unburied?
and in grief and tender compassion he lamented:
Woe is me, my sweetest Jesus!
A short while ago, the sun beheld Thee hanging on the cross,
and it hid itself in darkness.
The earth quaked with fear at the sight.
The veil of the temple was torn in two.
Lo, now I see Thee willingly submit to death for my sake.
How shall I bury Thee, O my God?
How can I wrap Thee in a shroud?
How can I touch Thy most pure Body with my hands?
What songs can I sing for Thy Exodus, O Compassionate One?
I magnify Thy Passion.
I glorify Thy burial
and Thy holy Resurrection, crying: O Lord, glory to Thee!
Yes, the Resurrection looms over our bereavment, and I reassure my son who seems mesmerized by the sight of the clergy symbolically carrying Christ's body (now in the form of a large tapestry depicting Him being taken down from the cross) to the beautifully flowered tomb in the center of the church. I tell him that everything will be okay - that grand fib that all parents tell their children. I tell him that Pascha is coming, the reality of which is the only thing that makes my reassurance (or any reassurance) not be a fib.
And so we lay God in His tomb.
Much later that night we begin the lamentation vigil in which throughout the entire night someone will be present at the tomb chanting or reading the Psalms. The entire Church is virtually devoid of light save for the few candles lit to assist the reader in reading. My wife and I must have gone through about 30 psalms during our hour and it was an experience that I have a hard time formulating into words at the moment...I was reminded of my gramdmother's funeral a few months ago. I was reminded of Death and a number of the Psalms warned me that "man is a vapor."
Death reigns for the moment...but I can already hear the stirrings of Holy Saturday
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:48 AM [+]