Friday, May 03, 2013

Paradise in a single moment.

Today is Good Friday according to the Julian Calendar, so here is the Exapostilarion from the Byzantine office of Matins for Great and Holy Friday - which is typically anticipated on the night of Holy Thursday - sung to Kievan chant at St. Elias Church in Brampton, Ontario. Here is the text in English:

The wise thief didst Thou make worthy of Paradise
In a single moment, O Lord,
By the wood of thy Cross.
Illumine me as well, and save me.

Earlier in the same service, one encounters the following antiphon, which neatly summarizes what Good Friday is all about:

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the Cross.
He who is King of the angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who in Jordan set Adam free receives blows upon His face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear.
We venerate your Passion, O Christ.
Show us also your glorious Resurrection.

On his blog Glory to God for All Things, Father Stephen Freeman offers a reflection on the above words:
Its poetry is typical of the liturgical thought of the Fathers. The death of Christ is ironic – indeed – the whole of Christ’s ministry is ironic. Things are turned upside down. God becomes man so that man can become god – this is ironic beyond measure! But the Fathers also saw in this irony the hiddenness of the mystery of our salvation. A literal reading of the world – a straightforward approach to our salvation – would be expected and anticipated. There is nothing hidden within such an account. But the hiddenness of things is the nature of wisdom. Wisdom is for the one who seeks, the one who listens, the one who looks beyond the obvious.

And it is there that the Wisdom of God is revealed in all of its ironic glory: a King crowned with thorns; God wrapped in mockery and suspended from a tree! In our own lives this same wisdom continues. The way of life is found in the way of the Cross. He who loses his life saves it. The gospel commands can only be understood in this wise foolishness. Forgiving enemies is foolishness, yet is our only hope.
Prayers and good wishes for those who, like me, are spending the better part of today in church. AMDG.


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