The general atmosphere is sad. Yet, the 12th hour comes and we remove the black decoration, we remove the crucifix and we remove the icon of the suffering Christ. The priest and the deacons re-enter the altar and the last doxology of the 12th hour is sung in a joyful tune. How is it than that the church that has spent the whole day and week chanting and reading His passion in a mournful tune suddenly change to joy in the last hour of Christ's burial? Surely we should mourn further, surely there should be no rejoicing as we bury the King of Kings?
The answer is eloquent and simple. We must remember that through His passion we are saved. Therefore we glorify Him and exalt His name for He has done us mercy according to His great mercy. St. Paul in the letter to the Romans writes “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because Godʼs love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
The 12th hour of Good Friday begins with a chant from the 3rd chapter of Lamentations. The chapter starts with Jeremiah's sorrow and his feeling of abandonment from God. Despite how Jeremiah feels, his sorrow soon turns to praise, "Because of the Lord ʼs great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23)
This is a reminder to us that despite whatever hardships or chains we are bound by; that God will never forsake us. Even when our realities fail us, His goodness cannot.
The Church knows and testifies this exactly on Friday night. Christ has gone to search for our first parent, Adam, redeeming humanity to its original status before the fall. Sadness turns to joy, tears are wiped away. St. Epiphanius of Cyprus writes that:
He took him by the hand and raised him up saying 'Awake O Sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you life. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in Hades. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, works of My Hands, you who were created in My image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I am in you; together we form only one person and cannot be separated.'
So the Church is full of joy, and this is exemplified on Saturday night on the resurrection re-enactment. We sing the hymn 'All you Heavenly Hosts'. We chant Χριστός Ανέστη (Christ is risen) and the priest replies Αληθώς Ανέστη (Truly He is Risen). The atmosphere explodes in light, movement and a joyful procession of the Church, with the congregation chanting 'Christ is risen from the dead'. This joy we continually proclaim for the next 50 days because now we are victorious over death.
Let us not abandon our spiritual disciplines because lent is over but rather use the 50 days to continue transforming our hearts, bodies, minds and our communities. We must remember that by death He trampled upon death, therefore we are no longer bound by the chains of death and sin. We conclude with a homily from St. Gregory the Theologian, may his blessings be with us all amen.
'Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.
Yesterday I died with Him; today I am made alive with Him.
Yesterday I was buried with Him; today I am raised up with Him.
Let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us ... ourselves, the possession most precious to God and most proper.
Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us.
Let us become Divine for His sake, since for us He became Man.
He assumed the worse that He might give us the better. He became poor that by His poverty we might become rich. He accepted the form of a servant that we might win back our freedom.
He came down that we might be lifted up. He was tempted that through Him we might conquer. He was dishonored that He might glorify us. He died that He might save us. He ascended that He might draw to Himself us, who were thrown down through the fall of sin.
Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself a Ransom and Reconciliation for us.
We needed an incarnate God, a God put to death, that we might live. We were put to death together with Him that we might be cleansed. We rose again with Him because we were put to death with Him. We were glorified with Him because we rose again with Him.
A few drops of Blood recreate the whole of creation!'