A friend of mine made the statement on facebook, ” Coming home with Christ still on the cross is a lot tougher than going to a passion play where you get to experience the joy of the Resurrection five minutes after the Crucifixion.” She’s right. Orthodox Christians don’t relive the last week of Christ in a 45 minute choir special. On Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem. On Thursday, he gets nailed to the cross (literally – a lifesize icon of Jesus gets nailed to the cross). On Friday, he dies, and we bury him. Friday night, we go to his funeral. Saturday, we wait in darkness and mourning. And finally, in the early hours of Sunday morning, he rises again.
Last night was the Lamentations Service of Holy Week. It’s my favorite Holy Week service (other than Pascha, of course.) It is basically a funeral for Jesus. We sing dirges. We lament. The little girls toss ross petals across his Bier and among us. The priest sprinkles us with rosewater, just as the myrrh-bearing women brought myrrh and spices for Jesus’ body. Here are a few of the many lamentations we sang last night:
O my sweet Lord Jesus, my Salvation my Light: How art Thou now hidden within a dark sepulcher? Lo, Thy burial surpasseth human speech.
All the earth was troubled and did tremble with fear, and the morning star, O Word hid its brilliant rays, when they hid Thee in the earth, O Most Great Light.
Songs of lamentation poured from Thy pure Mother, when Thou, O Word, was slaughtered.
All the hosts of heaven stood with fear, confounded, beholding Thy dead body.
Weeping and lamenting, Thy most holy Mother doth mourn the, my slain Savior.
Minds must tremble seeing, O Maker of Creation, Thy strange and dire entombment.
Last night was the first time I’d been there for the procession with the Bier. There have been years I haven’t even made it to the Lamentations Service; other years, we’ve left early because of the kids. But last night, they lifted up the Bier on their shoulders, and we all fell into a funeral procession. We exited the church and were met by a light rain. There were rose petals on the sidewalk that had fallen from the Bier. I grabbed my daughter’s hand because I needed something to hang on to. I was overcome, and the tears flowed.
I wasn’t sad for my dead brother, or my dead grandparents, or my dead friends.
I was sad for my dead Jesus.
My Jesus, who I’d pinned my hopes on, who I’d given my life to, was gone.
I was his Mother Mary and I was Mary Magdalene and I was every disciple. I was broken, bewildered, and grieving.
Today is Saturday. The rain pours; the world is gray. There is no joy today.