He Who clotheth Himself with light as with garment, was standing naked at the judgement. On His cheek He received blows from the hands which He created; lawless people nailed to the Cross the Lord of glory.
(From the Tenth Antiphon of the Matins on Great Friday)
* * *
In trepidation we stand before Thy cross and tomb, o Lord, and we are asking ourselves: who are we? Are we Thy followers or Thy lawless tormentors, Thy disciples or Thy crucifiers? Who are we, o Lord?
We name ourselves with Thy name and yet with every misdeed of ours, with every foul thought and word of ours, with every evil action of ours we add new thorns to Thy thorny crown: who, then, are we, o Lord?
We name ourselves Thy servants and yet with our little faith, pusillanimity, sensuality and hypocrisy we meanly slap Thee in the face, and then, as Adam in the garden of Eden, we make haste to hide ourselves from Thy face, we masterfully deceive our conscience and then again we bow before Thy icon, venerate it and pray to Thee as though nothing particular has happened: who are we, o Lord?
We were redeemed with Thy precious blood, o Saviour, and we confess this, and yet, with our love of sin, love of self and love of money, with our lack of mercy, with our greediness we cruelly nail Thee to the Cross and then we kiss Thy Cross and make its sign upon us: who are we, o Lord?
* * *
In the great and holy day of today we stand before Thy Cross and tomb, o Christ our Lord, and we ask ourselves: who are we?
Do we not consider ourselves faithful and pious on account of our being secretly or overtly proud that we are not as unfaithful or as impious as the others?
Do we not believe we are faithful to Thee only because we condemn the apostasy of others from Thy Truth?
Are we not convinced we abide in Thy truth, o Christ, only because we wage a vehement combat against those who have abandoned it, not knowing, however, Thy very Truth in depth and width, without having ourselves become truly united to it?
Could we be called Thy witnesses, o King of glory? Does the heart of Thy holy commandments throb within our lives, do unity, fraternal love, honesty, candour and simplicity emanate from our lives? Or is it rather true that our mouths extol Thee, while our life and actions shamelessly defame Thee?
Are we aspiring towards Thee, o Saviour, with all our mind, heart and conscience, in spirit and in truth, or do we rather expect from Thee protection, favours and profits in this life, in return for which we fulfil some kind of religious duties and thus turn into the Pharisees of the New Testament: we offer Thee our hypocritical worship and at the same time crucify Thee ruthlessly: who and what are we, o Lord?
We stand before Thy Cross and Tomb, o Christ King, and we are mournful and speechless. Are we awe-stricken by Thy ineffable humility or do we grieve for our wretchedness, or do we start to see and—stunned,—we behold our hands: those very hands which Thou---, o Creator, has created—impertinently slap Your face; that not others, but we, o long-suffering Saviour, nail You to the Cross; not others, but we, thrice more lawless than Your ancient crucifiers, make Your Great Friday unending…
But may our insanity and our spite prove not stronger than Your benignity and Your mercy, o Lord Who loves mankind! Spare us, enlighten us so that we may come to our senses, become reasonable, open our eyes and become Yours: Your servants, Your disciples, Your followers, Your children, so that we would become and be forever Yours, o Saviour, both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
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