My beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,

In the Orthros of Holy Friday, offered on Holy Thursday evening, we are drawn into the Passion of our Lord. Through the twelve Gospel readings, we will hear every detail of His Passion, His Crucifixion, His death and His burial. In the hymns, Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Christ will be condemned. The crowds that cheered Jesus a few days before will now call for His death on a cross.

We will also witness Christ’s continual silence throughout these events, as the prophet Isaiah had said about the Suffering Servant: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

The most moving moment of the Orthros is certainly the procession with the Crucified Christ, after the fifth Gospel reading. The somber chant is filled with lament and praise, mourning the instrument of the cross being used to torture the Lord Himself.

Today is hung on the tree, He Who suspended the Earth amid the waters. Σήμερον κρεμᾶται ἐπὶ ξύλου ὁ ἐν ὓδασι τὴν γῆν κρεμάσας.

Throughout the evening, we will stand in awe at Christ’s forbearance. Christ accepts the cross. He willingly accepts what will take place, in all its humiliating and horrible pain. Despite being mocked to “come down from the cross,” which He has the power to do, He does not.

We should also meditate on the sacrifice being offered for our salvation. Christ is the lamb being offered by His father for the sins of the world. Saint Paul wrote to the Romans, God did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32). As the hymn of Holy Thursday evening states, “Christ, our God, Who is our Passover, is sacrificed for us.”

These are also days of sacrifice for all of us, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic. We are making personal sacrifices by staying home, worshipping online, and limiting our activities and interaction with family and friends. There are others who are literally sacrificing their lives – the doctors, nurses and caregivers – who are tending to those afflicted by the Coronavirus. Their sacrifice is far greater than any small inconvenience we are personally experiencing during these days of physical separation.

On this Great and Holy Thursday, however, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is an image that should strike us to our core. He was nailed to the cross, tormented, and scorned. He suffered greatly!

Let us remember this ultimate sacrifice He made for each and every one of us – and let us approach the cross with humility and gratitude to God for His vast love of humanity to endure this suffering so that we may be saved.

Καλή Ανάσταση!