Friday, April 2, 2010

The Lamentations

Jesus Christ was broken on the Cross, but He was not divided. His body and His soul were wrenched apart in death — death on a Cross — but they were not divided because both His body and His soul were united to the divinity of the Son of God.

This profound mystery is true for us also because we, too, are united to Jesus Christ in Holy Baptism, sealed with the Holy Spirit in Holy Chrismation, brought back to Him in Holy Confession, and kept in enduring communion with Him through the Holy Eucharist. These Mysteries, or Sacraments are not merely "spiritual" but they are completely holistic since they unite us body and soul to God. And if we have been so united to Him in this life, then at our death, the separation of our body and soul is not fearful, but merely a transition from earthly to heavenly life.

Death therefore has no more hold on us than it does on Jesus Christ — if we are sacramentally in union with him. Estrangement from the Church, alienation from the sacraments, distance from Christ, is the worst possible thing: it is living death.

Contemplating the iconographic image of the kouvouklion (tomb of Christ with the Epitaphion) set before us tonight, we see that Life is in the tomb, not death; Hades is emptied, not holding the souls of the righteous. The Soul of Jesus destroys the power of Hades, leading out the souls of the righteous into the Kingdom of heaven. This reality is celebrated tonight, and the great resurrection we will experience on Pascha is foreshadowed. This reality is beautifully expressed in the following hymn from the Ninth Ode of the Kanon, sung in the voice of Jesus speaking to His Mother:

"Lament not for Me, Mother, as you behold Me in the grave, Whom as a Son you conceived in your womb without seed; for I shall rise and be glorified, and as God, I shall ceaselessly exalt in glory those, who in faith and yearning, magnify you." (Katavasia of the Ninth Ode of the Kanon) 
Let us, then, stand and sing out in rejoicing the Resurrection hymn:

When You descended to the realm of death, • You as life immortal • rendered to Hades a mortal blow • by Your all-radiant divinity; • and when You from infernal depths and the darkness below did raise the dead, • all the hosts of heavens powers did proclaim and cry out: • O life-giving Christ • and our God, we give glory.

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