The Thirty Eighth Day of Great Lent. Holy Week Meditation and Study Guide (Part III)
Holy Friday Evening
– Ezekiel 37:1-14, I Corinthians 5:6-8, Galatians 3:13-14, Matthew 27:62-66. On Good Friday evening, the theme is Christ’s descent into Hades during which the Gospel of repentance and reconciliation with God is shared with those who died before Christ’s saving dispensation in the flesh. The service begins with lamentations sung as we stand before the tomb of Christ commemorating His unjust punishment and the shedding of His innocent blood. But the service ends on a note of joy and hope, with the reading of the Prophet Ezekiel in which he describes his vision of our resurrection yet to come; in the midst of despair, we are told there is hope, for not even death can separate us from the unfailing love and power of God. Death is about to be conquered and faithfulness rewarded.
Holy Saturday Morning
Romans 6:3-11, Matthew 28:1-20.
On Holy Saturday morning we celebrate the theme of faithfulness receiving its reward. The crucifixion is over, Christ is buried, the twelve apostles and other disciples are scattered and defeated. And yet, three myrrh-bearing women come in faithfulness to perform the last act of love–to anoint Jesus according to the Jewish burial custom. Their unwavering devotion is rewarded–they are the first to share in Christ’s triumph over evil and death. They are the first witnesses to the Resurrection. This joy is commemorated through the scattering of bay leaves and rose petals by the priest.
Holy Saturday Evening and Easter Sunday Morning
The lamentations of the previous night are repeated and the church is plunged into darkness to symbolize the despair and defeat experienced before the dawn of Christ’s victory over the Enemy of our salvation. Precisely at midnight, a single light emerges from the altar representing the victory of Christ over death, the defeat of the Prince of Darkness by Jesus, the Light of the World. As the light is passed from person to person, it pushes back the darkness of the church and defeats it completely. The Resurrection is proclaimed in song and triumphant procession, and after the Liturgy, its light is carried into our homes so that they too might be filled with its light and warmth and triumph.
Easter Sunday Morning
Christ’s Resurrection and victory is affirmed in this morning’s theme. The Gospel is read in several languages to illustrate the universality of the Good News of the Resurrection and its proclamation to the very ends of the earth. Love, forgiveness, reconciliation, triumph and joy–these are the gifts which we receive because Christ lived and died and triumphed for our sake. GLORY BE TO HIM FOR ALL THINGS, AND MAY YOUR EASTER BE BLESSED.
~From Father Andrew Demotses, Saint Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church, Peabody, MA, taken from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Department of Internet Ministries, (http://lent.goarch.org/articles/lent_holyweek_meditation.asp).