On Holy and Great Friday the Church commemorates the Passion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Last night the Cross of Christ was processed around in a darkened Church, while faithful approached quietly to venerate our Crucified Lord. Since the Cross is otherwise not available for the people to venerate, as it is always in the Altar, this can be a special time for the people filled with a bit of somber excitement.
Many local traditions differ as to how a parish might experience the hours following last night’s service, known as the Passion Service or often more practically “The Reading of the Twelve Gospels”. If you attended the service in your local Church last night, you probably know what I mean by somber excitement.
Moments before the Priest exists the Holy Altar with the Cross of Christ, a hush falls upon the faithful. The voice of a the Priest as he sings “Today is Hung Upon a Tree” fills the dark Church during the procession to the center of the Church, where the faithful can then approach. It is a somber moment filled with excitement of what will come next. In many Churches the doors remain unlocked all night for faithful to come and pray at the Cross of Christ.
Today, Churches begin in earnest the preparation for tonight’s Lamentation Service where the decorated Tomb of Christ is taken outside around the Church. The day begins with the Royal Hours of the Passion, during which we are once again reminded of the last days and moments of Christ’s life on Earth. In the afternoon we will remove the Body of Christ and place the “Epitaphios” in the Tomb. Again, the faithful will venerate. Many have been venerating the Crucified Christ throughout the day.
As our excitement builds throughout the day, it isn’t because we ignore the facts of the gruesome crucifixion. We are excited because as Christians we know what comes next. LIFE! Today is that day when our emotions are mixed. Churches are busy with preparations, paused only by Church services throughout the day. It is a beautiful day which is worthy of our time spent at the Church, even if we don’t participate in the buzz of preparations. It is a day of somber excitement.