Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Tree Hymn

On Good Friday during Holy Week according to the Orthodox Christian calendar (which usually differs from the Protestant/Roman Catholic Holy week), we have what is called the Burial Service. It is a somber but exquisite service that recalls the final moments of Christ's Crucifixion and his subsequent burial in the tomb. The service begins at the 9th hour (3 pm). (Matt 27:46-56; Mark 15:33-41; Luke 23:44-49; John 19:28-30)

At the end of this service, the priest carries the Gospel book, and the altar servers carry our Lord's body (which is actually a full body icon of Jesus embroidered onto cloth) and place both in a tomb which then resides in the center of the church until we celebrate Christ's resurrection on the third day. This carrying of Jesus' body from the altar (where it is normally kept) to the center of the church reenacts Joseph of Arimathea's taking the Lord's body down from the cross, and placing it in the tomb. This act is recorded in all four gospels. (Matt 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42)

So while this is occurring, the choir and faithful are ever so gently singing the following:

The noble Joseph,
when he had taken down Thy most pure Body from the tree,
wrapped it in fine linen,
and anointed it with spices,
and placed it in a new tomb.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The angel came to the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb and said: Myrrh is fitting for the dead,
but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption.

There is so much more that can be said about this, and I will during Holy Week in 2011, but this hymn just perfectly caps this extremely moving service.

The video below is simply a choir practising the hymn, but place this song in your imagination along with sweet smell of incense, the vision of our Lord Jesus in the tomb, multitudes of candles flickering, and the words of Holy Scripture still coursing through your mind. My short description does no justice this event. Most people are moved to tears.

I recommend all Christians of every flavor attend this service. And don't be shy. Sit in the front of the church and sing along with the service book.

Oh, and back to our tree theme. The tree image is used repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testament, with it's ultimate end use as the cross of Christ. We lost paradise through the tree in Eden, but regained it again through the tree used to hang our Saviour on Golgotha.

No comments: