Friday, April 29, 2016

To the only Life worth living

                              The cross of the earth
                              The four winds point them
                              Body to body
                              Seas to anoint them

                              The reed they brought him
                              Sponge and vinegar
                              Fiery serpents
                              Spitting gold and cinnamon

                              The moon was bleeding
                              And stars were shallow
                              And the sword that killed him
                              Was a sword of willow

                              The winter and the midnight
                              Could not hold him
                              The fire could not burn him
                              Nor earth enfold him

                              Rise up Lazarus
                              Sweet and salty
                              Brother soldiers
                              Stop your gambling and talk to me

                              The thieves were stealers
                              But reason condemned him
                              And the grave was empty
                              Where they had laid him

                              — Robin Williamson, ‘Job’s Tears,’
                              from the Incredible String Band 
                              album Wee Tam

It’s Great and Holy Friday today, the Orthodox Christian holy day corresponding to the Good Friday of ‘the other Christians,’ but it doesn’t exactly correspond. Why not? Well, because for us this Friday is the commemoration of the ‘Taking down from the Cross’ and the ‘Entombment of Christ’ at which, this evening, we shall lament, we shall sing the ‘Lamentations’ before his flowery funeral bier.

It was last night, on Holy and Great Thursday, that we witnessed the Crucifixion and venerated the Cross of Christ, as Roman Catholics and historic Protestants do on Good Friday. It was last night that we heard the priest chant, as he carried the Cross around the inner walls of the temple,
                         Today is suspended on a tree He
                         who suspended the earth upon the waters.
                         The King of the angels
                         is decked with a crown of thorns.
                         He who wraps the heavens in clouds
                         is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
                         He who freed Adam in the Jordan
                         is slapped on the face.
                         The Bridegroom of the Church
                         is affixed to the Cross with nails.
                         The Son of the virgin
                         is pierced by a spear.
                         We worship Thy passion, O Christ. (3 times)
                         Show us Thy glorious Resurrection.

The Cross of Christ is the mystery in which all humanity shares, believers and non-believers, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, strong and weak, healthy and sick, left wing and right wing. Our very man-made divisions, enumerated above, are themselves the horizontal beam to which the hands of the Son of Man and God’s Only Begotten were horribly nailed.

At His left and right also, the Lord had companions to accompany Him in His descent to Hades, to the state of non-being, idiocy and darkness. We who are alive today to witness these reenactments are the same people who as our ancestors stood by and watched the Event as it occurred in ‘real time.’ The song quoted at the head of this testimony begins with this remarkable line,

                              We're all still here
                              no one has gone away
                              Waiting, acting much too well
                              and procrastinating

I left it out till now, adding it only as another illustration of what I have just written, that we who are alive today to witness these reenactments are the same people as those who stood at the foot of the literal, historic Cross, not knowing what was really happening, not understanding that this was not just any man dying the painful death of a criminal, despised and rejected, but God as man.

Sometimes I wonder if we, that is, if I know what is really happening, if I understand that this is not just any man dying on the Cross, despised and rejected (and by whom? Is it I?) but God as man, even God as me. What else can it mean that Christ takes my place on this instrument of excruciating torture to save me, but that He has come into my life and borne my personal suffering as if it were His?

Yes, I know I have suffered. I still suffer. It hurts. It can hurt so badly, sometimes. Yet I always find myself still alive, even unable to remember the pain, looking back on it as though it had happened to Someone else. Yes, it was He, it is He, always there. He knows that I must die, and so He joins me on the Cross, so I am never alone. He reigns in me, in my suffering, as King of Glory, sharing with me His throne.

The whole of humanity participates in the Cross of Christ. The whole human race, irrespective of nationality or religion, is saved by Him who came into the world not to judge the world but to save it. The post to which the horizontal beam was fixed in erecting the Cross is rooted in the remains of the first Adam in whose loins all humanity till the end of the age is contained, watered by the Blood.

The Christ whose holy image we venerate on the Cross is no stranger to us, nor to all of mankind. He has in fact and in act borne our sorrows as the prophet sang. No one has come too early or too late, for His sacrifice was made before the foundation of the world. Therefore, brethren, let us invite each other, and hasten to the life-giving Tomb, whence buried with Christ we shall rise to the only Life worth living.

Kali Anastasis! Beautiful Resurrection!

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