In the tomb, or More thoughts from Holy Week

Christ is in the tomb.

In a very tangible, yet transcendent way, we have gone with Christ from His glorious entry to His Passion, and now…

He’s in the tomb.

On Thursday evening, we read the “12 Passion Gospels”–a dozen passages referring to His suffering and death, some from His mouth in prophecy, and others recounting the details of His betrayal and crucifixion.

We said goodbye to the sad and tender Christ in the Bridegroom Icon, His hands bound, a crown of thorns on His head, and His eyes averted. I love that icon. Something stirs within me each time I see it and it’s all I can do not to embrace the thing. I know, that sounds a little nutty.

In the midst of the 12 Passion Gospels, Fr. Isaac nailed a wooden icon of Christ to a cross, and lifted it up next to the Royal Doors. With each wack of the mallet in the darkened nave, you could hear people gasp and cry.

That’s how it should be.

I grew up with the Easter Cantata–a giant staged program complete with smoke and lights as He arose from the tomb. It was fine, and it was a good way to watch the events unfold.

But there’s nothing quite like being there yourself–which we believe, in a mystical way, happens during our services. When I venerate the wooden cross and kiss the feet of that Christ, in a way I can not explain my adoration is passed on through space and time to Him who died to free me from sin.

While our chanters sang “Him who hung the earth upon the waters is now hung upon a Cross,” and we venerated the icon of Christ on the Cross, I wept like a friend had just died. It was the strangest thing EVER. But I guess my Friend did die.

The hymns often refer to our Holy Lady Mary and the other women who followed Christ to the Cross, watching in horror as He was brutally and unjustly killed, and weeping as He was removed from the Cross. I always forgot about them before. How hard it must have been for Mary–to love Him so much, and all that time knowing, yet probably hoping it would not, this would happen. What a tremendous gift she is to us–the example of her unselfish obedience and constant love for Christ, who was fully human.

All week as I looked at the various icons of Christ I was struck by His feet–the Creator of the Universe walked on the earth, had blisters, got dirty. How much more human is there than feet?!

On Friday evening, we took Christ from the Cross, laid Him in a bier and sang funeral songs for Him. The icons of Christ in the Church were covered with black veils (making it interesting when we pray for those of us growing accustomed to having something to affix our eyes to). Then He was taken off the bier, and placed into the tomb.

He was in the tomb this morning, when 12 people joined our Church, four through the waters of Holy Baptism–dying to sin and being raised to new life in Christ. The service, which ran no less than 3.5 hours, is one of the oldest in Christian tradition, dating back centuries, if not longer. The icons were still covered, though our hymns were a little lighter, alluding to the coming Miracle.

In about eight hours, He’ll be out!


Author: Rebecca

Orthodox Christian. Journalist. SAR K9 handler. All three of those are deeply related.

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