flickered in the dim light as the sun slowly set behind the lavender glass. The
priest quietly chanting to Christ as the prayers of the people began. My mind
was only half on the readings as I thought back over the Lenten season. I had
started out with such good intentions to fast from sin. The desire of my heart
was to draw closer to God. I remembered when I had been so close to God in the
past – spending time every day just “sitting with him” feeling the love I had
for Him and seeing Him work in my life daily.
their infirmities; purge away and cleanse their soul, O Savior, and deliver
them from entangling temptations. Soothe their pain; expel adverse situations;
and banish their sorrows as a compassionate and Loving Lord.”
words penetrated my musings from the past. The Lord had already delivered me
from so many sorrows; had restored to me all that had been lost. And I had not
been worthy; I had not deserved his care. He loved me before I ever knew Him.
He truly loved me. I was just beginning to understand love and learning to love
Him in return. I first came to Him out of my own selfish need. Needing help
that I knew without a doubt was not available from anyone else; knowing He was
God and could help me, I asked in desperation. I loved him so much and was
ashamed that it took such dire circumstances for Him to get my attention. In
return, He only wanted my heart and my love. In deep gratitude, I had responded
with all the love in my heart just wanting to spend time with Him.
doors opened to the sound of chanting in the darkness. The last rays of
sunlight were shining a pale purple on the altar. Silently, I slid into the
last pew. With deep breaths, I shrugged off the work world I had just rushed
from and entered into God's holy sanctuary. I struggled to focus my mind on the
readings of the Gospel of the Passion, the Psalms and the prayers. Slowly the
words were sinking in, the day behind me and the anticipation of the events to
it was completely dark. As one, we knelt. The scent of myrrh permeated my
being. Somehow I felt calm even serene. I glanced up as he passed by struggling
to carry the heavy beam of wood that was soon to be his cross. It was wood from
a tree that he had spoken into existence from the beginning of time. Through
his shallow breaths, he gasped in pain – sweat intermingling with blood,
quivering muscles struggling to stay upright. Forcing myself, through my tears,
I glimpsed his face. Eyes filled with compassion. How could it be? One step
then another foot-dragging step of anguish. No wonder all of creation wept! I
dropped to my knees as rose scented myrrh imbued my senses. His body gave out
and collapsed. A look of love and understanding passed between the sweaty
strands of hair entering my soul searing me forever. Simone of Cyrene stepped
over and picked up the weight carrying the cross through the streets to the
skull of Golgotha. The haunting words he sang hung in the air.
is hung upon the cross, He who suspended the earth amid the waters. Today is
hung upon the cross, He who suspended the earth amid the waters. Today is hung
upon the Cross, He who suspended the earth amid the waters. A crown of thorns
crowns Him, who is the King of Angels. He, who wrapped the heavens in clouds,
is clothed with the purple of mockery. He, who freed Adam in the Jordan,
received buffetings. He was transfixed with nails, who is the Bridegroom of the
Church. He was pierced with a lance, who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship
your passion O Christ. Show us also, your glorious resurrection.”
shook with the first nail hammered into Christ's wrist: My Lord and Savior.
More pounding as another nail went into the other wrist. I hid my face in my
hands. I could not bear to watch; the sound itself was too much. The God of the
entire universe; the One who had formed me now lay still, meekly submitting as
they raised the hammer again and again pounding the long iron nails into each
wrist and then his feet. This was my Lord and my King, my God and my Savior!
How could this be? And where had I been? How I longed to have wiped his face!
If only I could have given him one small sip of cool water! Could I have lifted
the load of the cross from his back? The cross; the load he carried. It was me,
me and my sins that were the weight on his back. My evil thoughts that dripped
red down his face; my pride, my envy, my jealousy that hung in strips across
his back; my selfishness that disfigured him. I was so caught up in me – my
life that I had forgotten what he had brought me: That very precious gift. I
now looked upon the result of my preoccupation. The Creator spoke the word to
create the life of the tree upon which he now hung in agony. My soul could not
understand. I should be punished. I was the one in the wrong. Not him! He had
never said an unkind word; never harmed anyone; never did any wrong. I had. He
was GOD! GOD! Did they not get that? Did they not understand! You can't crucify
God! He created you...me...us...them. We were created by him. You can't crucify
the one who made you!
struggled to raise the cross with his body stretched out upon it and held by
nails into the ground. As I lifted my face from my hands, I could see a shadow
in the darkness around his head: A crown, not of gold or silver or gems as he
deserved, but of ugly wicked looking thorns encircling his head. The very
thorns from the earth of sin he now took upon himself as his crown. He became the
king of sin. But it wasn't his sin, never his…only mine. Blood was dripping
down into his eyes as the thorns bit into his skin. Thorns…thorns were the sin
of the world, the sin of those to come, the sin of us all…us…me. I was included
in that “us”. My sins were those thorns digging into his skull and causing the
blood to drip into his eyes…my sins. Everything I had ever done in my life –
all the nasty thoughts, the horrid words that had come out of my mouth, every
wrong doing too many to even count or remember. I, who could not even bear to
watch as the nails pierced his flesh, now sat and watched my sins dripping down
his face. He did not say a word as he took on all of my sins, all my evilness,
all my wickedness, all my wrongs. If I had been in a court of law, I would have
been the condemned one, without a doubt, yet he stepped in and took my place.
He said not a word. Through the blood and bruises and his swollen eyes, I could
still see the look of love and compassion. I couldn't bear to look at him. But
I must! Worse than any wrong doing, was my neglect as I had ignored him. I had
separated myself from him. And still he looked at me with love. Now,
it truly was too much to bear. He was carrying the weight of the world, the
sins of every human being who ever lived and ever would live upon his back: The
back that had been lashed to a pulp. He hardly appeared human. Such was the
cause of my wickedness. My
throat choking with tears of remorse could not sing the prayers. One
by one small flames of light appeared to illuminate his broken body. The saints
also shone with the flickering flame. I was not alone. Those who had gone
before and those who were with me now, are all here. All of us shared, along
with the angels, the horror before us. The Very Son of God hanging on a cross
along with my sin. I had been ransomed from the curse of the law by the
precious blood of my Savior. The flame of candles, one of each gospel of the 12
stations, lit his broken body. One by one we approached to bow down before the
Son of God, honoring him in gratitude that could never be fully known; our
human hearts incapable of understanding the fullness of his actions. In hushed
silence, I knelt before him to kiss his wounds, his broken feet, and his blood
shed for me.
I knelt at the foot of his cross – his tortured body above me – blood dripping
to the ground, the sound of his anguished breath transfixing my grief, I could
only wonder. Who is this Son of God to allow himself to be hung by nails at the
hand of man? My mind could not comprehend such love. I could not understand
this love he had for me. A love I did not deserve.
one could bring themselves to leave. The darkness hid our shame and sorrow as
we sat together weeping and sobbing in prayers.
had been a long sleepless night. I lay in turmoil tossing and turning; the
brief moments of sleep clouded in nightmare. My mind refused to believe what it
had seen. I must hurry to join the other women to prepare a tomb for our Lord.
It still seems unreal. The events rushed through time. A part of me cannot
comprehend nor accept what has happened. All I know is that I must be there. It
was still early in the morning as we came to anoint his precious body and
prepare it for burial. We had brought flowers to adorn his tomb. All of us have
sleepless, tear-filled eyes, but we must begin our task. The tomb must be
prepared. We cannot have our Lord be laid to rest without the proper care. For many
hours, in hushed tones, the myrrh-bearing women had worked to decorate his tomb
with the very works that he had created: Blooms of red, pink, yellow, white, and
purple; their scent filling the air.
above us is his body; his crown of thorns askew on his blood drenched brow. His
robes have long been taken by the winner of the dice. I wonder if the winner
really understands what he has in his possession. And what of the other robe…The
robe of purple. It is the color of royalty and of kingship with God. Kingship
with God! He who is God made with his word (indeed his very essence) the sea
snail creatures from which that rich color was made from their secretion at
times of distress and when being attacked by predators. Yes, it was so costly
that only the royal could afford it. 12,000 of the tiny sea creatures were
needed to dye one robe. They thought to mock him but didn't realize in their
ignorance that what they had placed around his shoulders was what he himself
had created. Who would have the ability to construct the tiny creatures in such
a way that such a beautiful color would be secreted when attacked? And Christ
himself – in the midst of the eternal attack upon himself – was clothed in
purple. He was protected. They just did not know it. Just as they did not know
that the rich royal purple curtains hung in the Tabernacle separated man from
the Holy Things of God. Purple – which did not fade – but became brighter with
weather and sunlight. Just like my Lord's words in my heart – becoming brighter
each and every day shining upon the path of my life.
winds whipped. Darkness that was blacker than the midst of night. The light of
the moon and stars did not exist. Nothing seemed to live. Thunder and lightning
struck all around howling their anger. Rage was all about.
Eli, lama sabachthani? My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
words shook me to my very core. My heart quivered and my soul knew the truth.
He was the lamb; the pure and perfect lamb whose blood was being sacrificed for
me. I was the guilty one yet my sacrifice would accomplish nothing. He who had
done nothing wrong; whose every thought, word and action was pure; it was his blood
and only his that could accomplish the payment for all the evil choices. Now to
take all evil upon his shoulders, he had to separate himself from the love of
his father….such an unbearably exquisite pain. They had never been apart. But
sin cannot stand in the presence of love. With his agreement to pay the cost,
he was now separated from the love of his Holy Father. Who could endure? Yet I
shut myself off from God's love voluntarily throughout my life. I neglected
him; I ignored him; I ran my life as if it was my own. I forgot that my life
had been bought and paid for with this very blood that was still dripping drop
I knelt crushed with the knowledge, a soldier walked up with a vinegar
wine-filled sponge. Lifting it up upon the point of his sword, he taunted him
again. My heart cried out to tell him to leave my Lord alone yet my lips –
heavy with the burden of truth – remained silent.
into your hands I commit my spirit.”
whisper in my heart screeched into all creation. The rocks, plants and animals
heard. From the tiniest speck of dust to the angels – all heard. But did
fingers worked below his ravaged wind-swept body. Quietly we whispered
instructions to each other: place a flower here, there must be more greens,
more color, here the crown is to be placed, all must be just so. Tears dripped
softly as I lifted each delicate flower. At long last his suffering was over. I
listened ever so quietly for one last rasp of breath; one last word of hope.
Another flower placed for him. Gusts tore overhead. Below, the purple curtains
tore in two. All around a fiery storm whirled. Darkness illuminated only by the
flashes of lightening. And still our hands worked. A drop of blood fell upon
the soft petals and was absorbed within their dainty folds to cherish.
sudden gush sprayed me with a sprinkling of water and blood. In my misery, I
had not noticed the soldier with his spear piercing the side of my Lord. Could
they not see? Could they not hear? His death left such a void, such an
emptiness that could be felt all around. How deaf were they that they needed
this proof? When would they leave him alone?
our hands worked. As we worked and whispered, there were also the questions
that women always inquire: How is your son? Is your mother better? Are the
grandchildren well? How is work? Is the soup ready and warming? As women, we
had a natural cure for any disaster – there was always work to be done and
family to be inquired about. Our fingers flew. As we worked, hands full of
blood red flowers made the sign of the cross. With the thoughts of family and
suffering came the words of the prophets of old, “Surely he has borne our
griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God
and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for
our iniquities; upon Him who was the chastisement that made us whole, and with
His stripes we are healed.”
fluttered with the tears that acknowledged his stripes that bore my wounds. Lilies
intertwined with daisies. Carnations showed their face among the roses. Lifting
our prayers to heaven, the scent of incense wafted through the air.Tears, incense, flowers and prayers were intermixed
in their fragrance. Under breath were the whispered phrases of the prayer our
Lord had taught us. Somehow through these words he was still with us: “…For Thine
is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever….” As the final
words were uttered, the flowers in my hand appeared as a bride's bouquet.
listened as the last breath left his body. His suffering was over. As one we
dropped to our knees surrounding his cross of death. Flashes of lightening
glimmered off his body. His suffering over, I bowed down before my Lord and
Savior, my King and creator. Slowly, I stepped forward to lovingly kiss his
tender feet; the blood encrusted spike still held him to the cross. If only my
love could erase the pain. Whose pain: Mine or his? His face held not a trace
of pain. He sacrificed willingly in love. My pain increased with the knowledge
of my self-centered pain of loss.
the winds howled their rage, the violence of the storm reflecting the darkness
and absence of Christ.
is hung upon the cross, he who suspended the earth amid the waters.” With his
body hanging above me, the words seared my soul. “A crown of thorns crowns Him,
who is the King of Angels.” Blood still dripped from the thorn of my sin. My
bowed head knew that “He who wrapped the heavens in clouds had been clothed
with the purple of mockery. He who is the Bridegroom of the Church had been
pierced with a lance.” The notes pierced my heart. He was my bridegroom; he was
the bridegroom of the entire church – of all creation. This was how we had
treated him. It was necessary but how very painful to come face to face with
the truth. Without his willing sacrifice, I would never be free. I would never
become the bride.
I lifted my head, strong arms lifted his precious body down from the nails that
had held him to his death. Arms outstretched to gently enclose him in fine
white linen. We who had labored over the preparations stood back in silence.
Still unable to believe the truth as my tear-stained face witnessed the burial
of God. As I had worked to prepare his resting place, a small part of my heart
felt that this wasn't really true; wasn't really happening; he was only badly
injured. Surely, we could nurse him back to health and restore him to the
living. But now his body lay in the arms and the sheet was being drawn over his
face. Slowly, they turned to place him within the tomb. He was truly dead.
is dead. How is that even possible? God can't be dead. He always was and always
will be. He created everything. He made me. It is not possible for him to be
dead. How can the world continue to turn without the creator? How can he who
has no beginning and no end no longer be alive? It could not be real.
My Lord, this cannot be happening. I know the tomb is ready for your body. With
my own hands, I helped with the preparations, but yet it cannot be so. How can
you be dead? You are the Lord, the God of the universe, the One and Only God.
You have no beginning and no end. How can you be dead, at the hand of mere
humans…Evil, wicked humans who do not know you or love you? You did not even
have to allow this. You have the power. You could have stopped all of this. You
are the One who created them! Their feeble hands have no strength without you.
Your angels were standing by, waiting for your word. You said nothing. You, who
created all with your word, were silent. You allowed mere mortals to carry out
their plans. Everything that was done to you, you could have stopped with a
glance, a touch, a lifting of your brows. The angels were ready and waiting to
do your bidding. But you were silent. You endured the fists, the slaps, the
beating, the scourging, and the salt in your wounds, the humiliation, the
jeering, laughs, and the degradation. You who have the power of life and death
over all, you allowed each and every one to do his worst.
now you are dead. Just like any other human. You are dead.
the mourners came. Walking reverently they came to his tomb. Laying a flower
upon his tomb, they gave him a last kiss and said their farewells. I was among
them and laid my flower upon the growing heap of blood red petals – a tribute
of our love for him.
the numbers gathered around him, we sang our lamentations, mourning our loss.
Feelings and thoughts were mixed. Some of us had heard him say that he would
rise on the third day. As incredible as this seemed, we believed it. We had
seen the miracles and believed in our hearts that he was truly the Son of God.
Others thoughts he might be, but weren't sure. They knew he, at the very least,
was a great man and prophet. They had had such hopes for him. Now he was dead
and their hopes along with him. Some did not know, but such was his impact on
lives that now that he was gone, everyone was mourning him.
a turn of events! Less than a week ago, he had raised Lazarus from the dead.
And he had been dead for four whole days! Mary and Martha had been so upset
that he hadn't come earlier in time to save him. But he had his reasons. Then
the crowds had praised him, sang to him and waved their palms acknowledging
him. So short lived was their praise and thanksgiving. In a few short days, he
had been betrayed, sold for the price of a slave, disavowed by his closest
friends, beaten till he was unrecognizable and hung until dead.
we mourned our loss.
Angel standing by the tomb, cried out to the Myrrh-bearing women: “The Myrrh is
fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown himself a stranger to corruption.”
it be true? We struggled to believe.
himself had declined to drink the wine mixed with myrrh, not wanting to dull
any of the pain he felt. He suffered everything that we could ever suffer and
more. I knew how guilty I was. I should be the one hanging on the cross
enduring all for my sins. I should be suffering the consequences of my wrong
doing. But he forgave me and took my sins on himself. It made it even harder to
see him lying there; knowing that he sacrificed his life so that I might be
forgiven from my sins. Even when I continue to sin, his forgiveness is there.
He became the sacrifice for me, because I could not save myself. No matter what
I did, no matter how hard I try I cannot save myself.
would we survive? How could we go on? All hope was gone. My heart was full of
is hung upon the cross, He who suspended the earth amid the waters. A crown of
thorns crowns Him, who is the King of angels. He, who wrapped the heavens in
clouds, is clothed with the purple of mockery. He was pierced with a lance, who
is the son of the virgin.”
echoes of his voice sounded through the air. Was I dreaming? Was it him?
is still unfathomable, how the One and Only God who created me with his word,
gave me free will to choose, and when I chose wrongly guaranteeing the death of
my soul, he provided the way for my salvation…and not just any way. It had to
be a perfect sacrifice to atone. Nothing else would do. And so he allowed his
only son to become human flesh and endure for me what I should have endured, taking
all my sin on his back so that I might live. And he didn't stop there. No. He
raised me up to sit with him.
pallbearers lifted his coffin onto their shoulders. The solemn procession
began. This was for us. He was dead. We couldn't believe. We needed to see the
procession, watch as his body was placed in the tomb, and witness the stone rolling
to close the entrance; the stone that was closing the door to our hope and
belief. Droplets of rose water flitted upon my skin and the scent filled the
air as his body was lovingly placed within the tomb.
King was gone. And darkness settled over the earth.
would we survive? How could we go on? All hope was gone. Gone was our dream
that life would be better. Gone was the one who filled our hearts and daily
inspired us. With my heart full of despair, fear settled in.
sat in the shadows of the cross and wept.
I walked under his coffin, I walked into Hades.
was dead. Could I die? Could I willingly die to self? As I walked into Hades, I
knew the choice was mine. I could willingly give up myself and trust to
whatever he desired for me or I could die. Was I willing to give up my will, my
desires, and my wants? Did I recognize that all of those things that I thought
were so important would soon become dust? I could become dust with them. Or I
could give myself over to Christ and his desires for me and live eternally
within his love. Would I allow Christ to be in control? Could I place my trust
in him? Would I give up what I thought was so important to follow his way?
Could I trust? That's what it all came down to. While he was living and
breathing, I had no trouble trusting. Now that he was gone, could I continue
with that trust? Could I believe in faith?
days. That's what he had told us. In three days, he would rise from the dead.
He had raised Lazarus from the dead. I knew he could do it. But would he? Would
he actually conquer death?
earth groaned with its burden. Lightening flashed within booms of thunder. The
very ground strove to reject its affliction of his dead body.
a swirl of emotions, tendrils of incense wafted upwards like a song lifting
notes of prayer on high.
is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed are You on the throne of glory
of your kingdom, seated upon the cherubim now and forever and to the ages of
he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples and
said, “take, eat, this is my body.” And he took a cup and when he had given
thanks he gave it to them, saying “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my
blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of
words took on new meaning. He was still here and in a fuller, deeper way. Much
more than the person who had walked among us on earth. No more sacrifices would
be needed; he had made the ultimate sacrifice as no one else could. I only
needed to receive and accept – his sacrifice, his forgiveness, his love.
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church 1010 Spruce St * Pueblo, Colorado * 81004