UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Great and Holy Friday at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH!
On Great and Holy Friday, the most somber day of the liturgical year, about 200 parishioners, relatives and members of the community at large gathered in Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, Parma, OH, in solemn witness of the sacrifice of the Lord in order to participate in the Vespers service, at which the Holy Shroud is brought out of the sanctuary and placed in the midst of the faithful for veneration.
Holy Friday! What a solemn day in the life of any Christian. On this day the Church commemorates the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross.
The day of Christ's death is the day of sin. The sin which polluted God's creation from the breaking dawn of time reached its frightful climax on the hill of Golgotha. There, sin and evil, destruction and death came into their own. Ungodly men had Him nailed to the Cross, in order to destroy Him. However, His death condemned irrevocably the fallen world by revealing its true and abnormal nature.
The day of Christ's death has become our true birthday. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins.
On this holy day, the faithful commemorated the death of Christ on the Cross and His burial, with the spiritual father of the cathedral community and the Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA His Grace Bishop Daniel, who was assisted by the clergy of the cathedral community Very Rev. Ivan Nakonachny, Very Rev. Michel Hontaruk, Ihumen John (Henry) and Protodeacon Ihor Mahlay.
Prior to the beginning of the liturgical services, in the morning hours of Holy and Great Friday, Bishop Daniel accompanied by Fr. John Nakonachny, Fr. Michael Hontaruk and Subdeacon Adrian Mazur visited a local nursing home, spending time with the 94 year old monk Ephrem, who lived and ministered to the needs of homeless and less fortunate on the streets of Cleveland Metropolitan area. Later in the day, Vladyka Daniel paid a visit to St. Herman’s House of Hospitality. As the lunch hour approached and meals were served, the clergy toured the facility, speaking to the workers, residents and those who came to partake of the charitable outreach luncheon of St. Herman’s. While at the chapel, Bishop Daniel along with Fr. John and Fr. Michael chanted a small prayer service for the residents of the facility... “The guests of St. Herman’s House face some of the most difficult challenges of life, living on the streets and searching for a welcoming place of love – the very same challenges as the Holy Family did when they sought shelter in Bethlehem,” reflected His Grace Bishop Daniel. “The mission of St. Herman’s is to provide room at the inn for those with no place left to turn for safe and warm shelter and food. St. Herman’s House is but one way the Holy Orthodox Church, through the ministry of FOCUS, can make a real difference among those who are struggling with life’s long journey during these very challenging and difficult times...”
…Once again - Holy Friday! What a solemn day in the life of any Christian. The liturgical services of the day are the culmination of the observance of Christ’s Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon/evening that observes the veneration of the shroud.
Great Friday and Saturday have been observed as days of deep sorrow and strict fast from Christian antiquity. Great Friday and Saturday direct our attention to the trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Christ. We are placed within the awesome mystery of the extreme humility of our suffering God. Therefore, these days are at once days of deep gloom as well as watchful expectation. The Author of life is at work transforming death into life: "Come, let us see our Life lying in the tomb, that he may give life to those that in their tombs lie dead" (Sticheron of Great Saturday Matins). Liturgically, the profound and awesome event of the death and burial of God in the flesh is marked by a particular kind of silence, i.e. by the absence of an Eucharistic celebration.
From the homily by Bishop Daniel, recalling the cross as the central and most widely known symbol of Christianity for 2,000 years, to the evening Vespers liturgical services, the cross and sacrifice of Christ drew in eyes, hearts and minds of those in attendance.
Vladyka Daniel shortly reflected on the last word of Christ on the cross: "FATHER INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT!" - These are the words with which Our Lord ended His suffering on the cross. His soul was returning to His Father. He lived with God and He died with God. His last words were a beautiful act of relinquishment, commending His life into the hands of God: "FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT." If we live with God, we shall be able to die with the beautiful peace of God.
…Those who live only for this world, preoccupied with self and property, do not die a peaceful death. They keep looking behind at what they will be leaving. All their treasures are on earth. They have no riches to look forward to in heaven. But those who have lived as pilgrims and strangers on the face of the earth, homesick for heaven, die with anticipation of the best that is yet to be: "NOW FOR THE GREAT ADVENTURE! NOW WE ARE BOUND FOR HOME! EYE HAS NOT SEEN WHAT THINGS GOD HAS PREPARED FOR US! FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT…"
…"FATHER, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT. "- These words of Our Lord are not original. He was quoting from Psalm 31 verse 6. It was a familiar prayer to every Jewish youngster. For it was probably the most used going-asleep prayer at the time of Jesus. Jesus added only one important word to it, the word "Father." He had probably leaned it at His mother's knee. Now He was praying if for the last time, and making it the evening prayer of life itself...”
Bishop Daniel concluded, inviting everyone to enter into the mystery of the tomb of Christ, putting our hopes and prayers at His feet, so that we can come out on Pascha morning and proclaim to the world that the Lord has Risen!
In the spirit of a long-standing tradition, Vladyka Daniel, accompanied by the local Ukrainian Orthodox clergy visited local Ukrainian Catholic cathedral and in turn Bishop John of Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Parma, OH, assisted by his clergy visited St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.
Later in the evening, escorted by the assistant pastor of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma, OH, His Grace visited numerous Orthodox parishes on the Cleveland Metropolitan area in order to venerate the Sacred Shroud of Christ.
Photos by Michael Nakonachny and Subdeacon Adrian Mazur