God's funeral Rerun
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 8:19 AM [+]
From 2004. Our practice is slightly different now, but that is no matter. Today we are in fact having God's funeral. Looking back at old blog posts from some of my early Paschal / Holy Week experiences is a real blessing to me. It's that whole "return to your first love" sorta thing. Again...we need to be MOVED by all this, not just emotionally but in every way. Anyway...flash back 7 years...
As we enter the Nave of the Church on Holy Friday afternoon, we can prominently 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 bereavement, 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.
I thought that was a beautiful description of your experience with the service. Holy Week is one of my favorite times of the year. I loved the tidbit about your son. I never cease to be amazed by the comments children make sometimes. I feel as if they see the world with an innocence and clarity that adults seem to have lost. I was sitting with my niece in church on Holy Friday afternoon and was explaining what was going on to her. She then spent the rest of the service asking me all sorts of religious questions that I thought were very inspired for a 4 year old. I find it very moving when you see such young children taking an interest in the faith.