On the Great and Holy Friday, 29 April 2016, His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, officiated at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest the Matins of the Lamentations at the Tomb. Together with His Beatitude were present the Assistant Bishops to the Patriarch, Their Graces Varlaam of Ploiești and Ieronim of Sinaia, an assembly of numerous priests and deacons, servants at the Patriarchal Cathedral, and many faithful.
In his homily, Hs Beatitude pointed out the spiritual meanings of the service of the Lamentations at the Tomb.
His Beatitude said that the Lamentations indicate the connection between the mysteries of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection, between His meekness and His glory.
The service of the Lamentations is one of the most beautiful liturgical creations of Orthodoxy. It is a harmonious joint between theology and poetry, between chant and the spiritual meaning of the mystery of Christ’s crucifixion and burial, with the hopeful expectance of His Resurrection. This service has so many theological depths that almost no other dogmatic work could concentrate in simple and, at the same time, poetical words the deep meanings of the mystery of the utmost humiliation of our Saviour Jesus Christ by His crucifixion and burial,His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel said.
Referring to the contents of the service, the Head of the Romanian Orthodox Church said that the Lamentations at the Tomb have four dimensions.
Firstly, the Lamentations at the Tomb represent a mourning at the burial of Christ, sung before the Epitaphios, which in Greek means the cover of a tomb (or upon the tomb). This is an icon on a cloth on which is depicted the entombment of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Secondly, the Lamentations are a witness of Christ’s divinity. Thirdly, they are a glorification of His humiliation shown to us through His crucifixion and burial. Fourthly, the Lamentations are an expectation of His Resurrection in a state of vigilance.
We see that Lord’s death on the cross and His burial produce a cosmic mourning, as some of the verses of the Lamentations imply. For instance, one verse of the first stasis says thatThe whole creation was altered by Thy Passion: for all things suffered with Thee, knowing, O Word, that Thou holdest all in unity, the Patriarch of Romania noted.
Thus we observe a together-suffering of the entire creation with Christ, Who lays crucified on the cross, but as the Creator of everything that exists. He created heaven and earth, He is the Fashioner of the Universe, and that is why the sun and the moon were darkened when He died on the cross. This is related to the words: The sun hid itself, seeing Thee, the Light that knows no evening, sinking in Thy body down into the tomb. This shows us that Jesus Christ was not a simple man dying on the cross, but the Lord and Master of Universe. That is why, His suffering passes unto the entire creation. For when the Fashioner of Universe suffers death, everything suffers together with Him.
In every hymn sung this day there is a witness of Christ’s divinity.
He who dies on the Cross being then buried, seats on the Throne together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Here we have the great mystery of Saturday, the mystery of the death of our Saviour Jesus Christ: His body lies in the tomb, His soul descends to Hades, while He still remains in the glory of divinity together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Fathers of the Church taught that Christ’s death represents only the separation of His soul and body, and not the separation of His divinity from His body lying in the tomb, nor from His soul which is descending to Hades. Therefore, Christ’s body being united with the divine nature cannot putrefy, cannot decompose. At the same time, His soul, being united with His divine nature cannot be detained in Hades. That is why the hymns say: ‘You destroyed Hades with the splendour of your divinity’ . What does this mean? He brought His eternal and glorified love amidst the isolation, solitude and suffering of those who dwelled in Hades,the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church noted.
Jesus Christ has humbled Himself in order to show the meaning of man’s obedience to God even unto death, His Beatitude emphasised.
The angels in heaven, knowing Christ’s glory, were frightened to see Him lying dead in the tomb. They were frightened to know He had willingly accepted death and lay in such a small tomb. This makes His self-abasement, i.e. His humiliation, above understanding. This humiliation passes through death in order to conquer death from the inside. Why has Christ humbled Himself to death – even death on a cross? In order to show man’s obedience to God unto death and to heal Adam’s sin of disobedience.
Nevertheless, the Patriarch of Romania explained to the present faithful that the Lamentations at the Tomb are a mourning, but full of the hope of Resurrection.
Regarding the hope of Resurrection, this service is very profound. At the end of the third stasis we are indicated the expectance of the Resurrection of the Lord in a state of vigilance. Thus, we can observe that the Lamentations are not a desperate mourning, but one full of the hope of Resurrection.
Following the Doxology, the traditional procession around the Patriarchal Cathedral took place, which symbolises the entombment of Christ. There have been made four stops, and at each stop litanies were said. After the procession, before entring the cathedral, all faithful passed under the Holy Epitaphios. Then, the Epitaphios was laid on the Holy Table, while chanting the troparionNoble Joseph, taking down your most pure body…