Holy Week commentaries: Friday
“Church services of Burial Vespers and Lamentations. I missed the Royal Hours services but read them later. I was struck by how many types there are in the Bible of the silver that Jesus was sold for: the silver paid to Joseph’s brothers for selling him into slavery, the warning of Zachariah (Zach 11:10-13), the prophecy of Jeremiah (quoted somewhere in Matt 27:1-56), and of course in the gospel stories themselves. A part of the Third Hour service nicely parallels the quote about Judas I copied yesterday:
‘When thou wast led to the Cross, O Lord, thou didst say, “For what act do ye wish, O Jews, to crucify me? Is it because I have strengthened your cripples? Is it because I raised your dead as from the sleep, healed the woman of her issue of blood, and showed mercy upon the Canaanitish woman? For what act, O ye Jews, desire ye my death?” But ye shall behold him who ye pierced, O law-transgressors, and know that he is Christ’ (501).
“In case we think that Judas and the Jews are to blame for the shedding of the innocent blood of Jesus instead of ourselves, the following Epistle reading (Rom 5:6-10) reminds us otherwise:
‘Brethren, while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man – though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (503).
“We who are saved by God are not to number ourselves with the ‘good man’ who would not crucify Christ, but with Judas and the Jews. On the other hand, a frank plea is addressed to those who swear by the laws in the Torah and are among God’s chosen tribe:
‘Do not err, O Jews; for it is he who saved you in the sea and nourished you in the wilderness. He is the Life, the Light, and the Peace of the world’ (512).
“Jumping back to the motif of betraying the innocent God, a quote from the Ninth Hour:
‘When the lawless nailed thee upon the Cross, O Lord of glory, thou didst cry unto them, “Wherein have I angered you? And who before me delivered you from sorrow? And now wherewith do ye reward me? Instead of goodness, evil; for the pillar of fire, ye nailed me on the Cross; for the clouds, ye dug me a grave; instead of water, ye gave me vinegar to drink. I will henceforth call the Gentiles, and they shall glorify me with the Father and the Holy Spirit’ (525).
“I am still confused about the Christian notion of judgment as expressed in Heb 10:19-31: if the law is designed to trip us up and show us that we are sinners, how are we then expected to ‘sin no more’ even after hearing the law of Christ [A study of God’s recurring mercy towards Israel in the Bible – forgiveness being the cornerstone of love – went a long way to helping diffuse this earlier confusion of mine]?
“On to the Burial Vespers service. Here ends the paralleling of the Exodus and Job stories that began in the Orthos services earlier in the week. God shows himself to be a friend of Moses and restores Job’s lost fortune twofold. Both remained faithful to God in their tribulations (cf. entry on [Monday]). The gospel story told during this service strangely cycled through passages from the different gospels. We stayed at church for only half of the Lamentations service. I was intrigued to discover that Eve, Mary, and the Church are intertwined symbols:
‘Thou didst come from a Virgin who knew no travail. Thy side, O my Creator, was pierced with a spear, by which thou didst accomplish the re-creation of Eve, having thyself become Adam. Supernaturally thou didst fall into a sleep that renewed nature, raising life from sleep and corruption; for thou art Almighty’ (586).
“Christ’s days in the tomb are likened to the Sabbath (588-89) – a good argument why the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday rather than on Sunday!? [An argument flatly refuted later on in the Paschal Orthos service on Sunday, p. 724]. The three stases of lamentations are unlike anything I have heard in any other church service: I felt uncomfortable and out of place hearing them sung at church. I do not know why. Jumping back to the motif of Christ addressing his accusers, here is one more beautiful passage:
‘Oh, how the assembly of the law-transgressors condemned to death the King of creation, not being ashamed nor abased by his benevolences, of which he had assured them formerly, calling them to their remembrance, saying, “My people, what have I done to thee? Have I not showered Judaism with wonders? Have I not raised the dead by only a word? Have I not healed every sickness and every weakness? With what, then, hast thou rewarded me? For healing, thou hast inflicted wounds upon me; and for raising the dead, thou dost cause me, the benevolent, to die suspended upon a Tree as an evil-doer; the Giver of the Law, as a law-transgressor; and the King of all, as one who is condemned.” Wherefore, O long-suffering Lord, glory to thee’ (545).