On Good and Holy Friday (April 26, 2019), the most solemn day of the liturgical year, parishioners, relatives and members of the community at large gathered in St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL, for a 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.
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 Eminence Archbishop Daniel, who was assisted by the pastor of the parish’s community Very Rev. Fr. Ivan Lymar. The liturgical services of the day are the culmination of the observance of His 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.
From the homily by Archbishop 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.
The hierarch led the Vespers service on Holy Friday, on which from the early years the Church observed an annual commemoration of the decisive and crucial three days of sacred history, i.e., Great Friday, Great Saturday and Pascha.
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.
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.
Over 200 parishioners, relatives and members of the community at large gathered in Chicago’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, 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.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel called upon the faithful “…to live their lives, following the example of selflessness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… The world is hungry and thirsty for the Light that comes from Christ; the Light that brings consolation to the world with economic difficulties and natural disasters. We need to allow the Light of Christ shine through us…
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...”
Vladyka Daniel concluded his remarks with another brief reflection, touching upon the 33rdanniversary of Chornobyl Nuclear tragedy that is marked every year on the 26thApril – the exact day of the explosion of the 4threactor at the Chornobyl Nuclear Plant of Ukraine.
Lighting the memorial candle, the archbishop invited 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!
Photos by Olena Lymar