by Fr. Nicholas Magoulias
from The Word, April 1976
On Good Friday afternoon, the touching service of the Burial of our Lord takes place. This rite is especially loved by children because of its dramatic solemnity. A specially constructed sepulchre of four pillars surmounted by a dome on which stands a cross is stationed in the center of the Nave. The symbolic tomb of our Saviour is completely covered by beautifully arranged floral decorations. During the afternoon service the Body of the Crucified Christ is taken down from the Cross. And a beautifully embroidered cloth bearing the representation of the Sacred Corpse of our Lord is placed in the center of the flower-adorned sepulchre. To commemorate the Burial the following words are recited:
"When Joseph of Arimathea took Thee, the Life of all, down from the Tree dead, he buried Thee with myrrh and fine linen; and He yearned with desire, in his heart and on His lips, that Thy pure Body might be enshrouded; wherefore, hiding he cried to Thee, rejoicing, Glory to Thy humiliation, O Merciful Master." In a moving apostrophe to Christ in the tomb, the hymn is chanted:
"Joseph with Nicodemus takes Thee down from the tree, who clothest Thyself with light as it were with a garment; and when he saw Thee dead, naked and unentombed, he mourned with compassionate wailing and said: Alas! Beloved Jesus, so short a time ago the sun beholding Thee upon the Cross covered himself with gloom, the earth trembled for fear, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain and now, lo! I see Thee before me, willingly going down to death. How can I bury Thee, my God, or how can I enwrap Thee in fine linen? How with my hands dare I touch Thy sacred Body or with what chants can I celebrate Thy going hence, O Lord of mercies? I magnify Thy sufferings and I praise Thy Tomb and Thy Resurrection, crying: Lord, Glory to Thee."
On Good Friday night the Saturday Service of the Lamentations takes place commemorating both "the entombment of the Divine Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour; and also His descent into corruption, and permitted to pass over to everlasting life."
The funeral hymns which are chanted at the flower-adorned sepulchre are poignant but never despairing since by His Death Christ is at this moment destroying the dominion of Death. We hear the following moving words of the hymns: "Thou, O Christ the Life, was laid in the Tomb, and armies of angels were amazed, and they glorified Thy humiliation. O Life, how canst Thou die? How canst Thou dwell in the Tomb? Thou dost break down the kingdom of Death, and hast raised up those who were dead in Hades. It is meet to magnify Thee, the Giver of Life, Thou who didst extend Thine hands upon the Cross, and shatter the power of the enemy. O Light of my eyes my Beloved Child, how are Thou now hidden in the grave?"
Following this the priest reverently takes the cloth bearing the image of the Sacred Corpse of our Lord and leads a procession, when possible round the outside of the Church building, followed by the entire congregation, otherwise within the Nave reenacting in this fashion the funeral procession leading to the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
At the conclusion of the Service the priest hands out a flower from the sepulchre to the faithful as a blessing of the solemn significance of the rite.
St. Mary of Egypt - April 1
Enlightened by the grace of the Cross, thou wast seen to be a bright light of repentance, dispelling the darkness of passions, O all holy one. Thou didst appear as an angel in the flesh to holy Zosimas in the wilderness. Intercede with Christ for us, O Mary our righteous Mother.
Kontakion of St. Mary, Tone 4
Having escaped the fog of sin, and having illumined thy heart with the light of penitence, O glorious one, thou didst come to Christ and didst offer to Him His immaculate and holy Mother as a merciful intercessor. Hence thou hast found remission for transgressions, and with the Angels thou ever rejoicest.