Today, the Orthodox world buries Christ. On Great and Holy Friday, we mourn the death of Christ on the Cross as we remove his body and prepare it for burial. Today is a day centered on the effects of sin. Today, in anticipation of ultimate triumph, sin nailed Christ to the Cross in order to prove its sovereignty. Once and for all, sin aimed to separate God from his most beloved creation.
However, we all know what happened next.
Through death, Christ saved us all. But, that didn’t make his earthly torture, torment and trial any easier to bear. For me, the Orthodox traditions in celebrating Lent and Easter make Christ’s sacrifice real. Every year, we’re invited on a journey with him. Through fasting, prayer and dedicated services we are brought to the passion. We approach the resurrection empty of earthly sustenance – tired, hungry and filled with soul-penetrating sadness. We mourn His death and for the fallen, sinful nature of a people he died to protect.
Tonight, we honor Christ’s sacrifice tonight with a burial service that brings you to tears. We lament as Mary did, weeping over the body of her precious son who willingly and innocently went to the Cross.
However, through the anguish expressed during the Epitaphios service we are truly able to celebrate and appreciate Christ’s victory over death and his resurrection.
Sin aims to separate us from God; life without Him is truly a living death filled with unimaginable suffering. Only through death was Christ able to give us the path to everlasting life. Today is a day of mourning, which serves as a reminder of what we all will face as we anticipate life in the kingdom of God. Sin is a fact of life. Separation from God is a real temptation. Remember, only through earthly death will we gain our true lives, restored with God in Heaven. Our pride must die. Our vanity must die. Our ego must die.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)
Only through death are we really able to live.