Friday 13 April 2012

Great and Holy Friday

I haven't seen a video from Moscow of today's Good Friday services, so I thought I'd go ahead and post this one from last year.

In the Byzantine rite, Matins of Good Friday usually happens on Thursday night, and this is when the Twelve Passion Gospels are read. Just before the sixth Gospel, which recounts the Crucifixion, a large cross is carried out of the Altar (cf pre-55 vs reformed rites which convey the Cross to the altar) which is later venerated by the faithful.

On Friday Afternoon, the Epitaphios (Plashchanitsa in Russian) is placed on the Holy Table before Great Vespers of the apokathelosis, or 'taking-down from the tree'. After the Gospel reading describing the Depostition, the epitathios is carried (in this video, over the Patriarch's head) to a low table in the nave which is usually highly decorated. A chalice veil (cf the old Roman Rite rubric of depositing the Blessed Sacrament within liturgical vessels wrapped in a chalice veil on Holy Thursday) and Gospel book are placed on the epitaphios, which is then venerated with a triple prostration (cf old Roman Rite veneration of the Cross), which you can see in this video.

It would be wrong to push the similarities too far, but they are striking. One thing that I find interesting is the dual symbolism of the Altar as both Golgotha and Tomb. In the rites of Good Friday, the Cross and Epitaphios are both brought from and then returned to the Altar. The rites of the Triduum are redolent with the same symbolism - from the "burial" and exposition of the Tenebrae candle to the dressing of the altar and movement of the Cross during the Good Friday Liturgy.

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