It is often said that the hymnography for Holy Friday in the Christian East is anti-Semitic. References are made to “the Jews,” or “the Hebrew race.” What is intended in the hymnography (and meant to be understood) by these references is those individuals who were behind the plot to do away with the Savior — often called “the leaders” of the people. Texts also refer to the “lawless ones” who nailed the Savior to the Cross: the Romans. Each of us, by virtue of our own sinful disobedience to God, has had a part to play in the crucifixion of the Lord. What is addressed to “the Jews,” or “the Romans” should be interpreted as being applicable to us.
This translation of the texts from the Triodion comes from Archimandrite Ephrem (Lash), as available on the Anastasis website.
It is hoped that by making a prayerful reading of these texts, you will be able to enter into the Passion of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ— and in so doing, you will “venerate Christ’s sufferings and then be shown His glorious Resurrection.”
From the Matins of Holy Friday
He who wraps himself in light as a garment, stands naked for judgement, and accepts a blow on the cheek by the hands of those he fashioned; while the lawless people nailed to the Cross the Lord of glory. Then the veil of the Temple was rent; the sun grew dark, unable to endure seeing God, before whom all things tremble being outraged. Him let us worship.
The disciple denied, the Thief cried out, “Remember me, Lord, in your Kingdom.”
Give peace to the world, Lord, who accepted to put on flesh from a Virgin for the sake of your servants that with one accord we may glorify you, the lover of mankind.
Thus says the Lord to the Jews, “My people, what have I done to you? Or in what have I wearied you? I gave light to your blind, I cleansed your lepers, I set upright a man lying on a bed. My people, what have I done to you, and how have you repaid me? Instead of the manna, gall; instead of the water, vinegar; instead of loving me, you have nailed me to a cross. I can endure no longer; I will call my nations, and they will glorify me, with the Father and the Spirit; and I shall grant them eternal life.
Today the veil of the Temple is rent as a reproof to the transgressors; and the sun hides its own rays, as it sees the Master crucified.
Lawgivers of Israel, Jews and Pharisees, the choir of the Apostles cries out to you, “See a Temple, which you have destroyed; see a Lamb, whom you have crucified. You handed him over to a tomb, but by his own authority he has risen. Do not be deceived, O Jews, for it is he who saved you in the sea, and fed you in the desert. He is the life and the light and the peace of the world.”
Hail Gate of the King of glory, through which the Most High alone has passed, and left it sealed again, for the salvation of our souls.
When you stood before Kaiaphas, O God, and were handed over to Pilate, O Judge, the powers of heaven were shaken from fear; but then you were raised up on the Tree between two thieves and were numbered with transgressors, O sinless One, to save humankind. Long-suffering Lord, glory to you!
Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon a Tree,
He who is King of the Angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heaven in clouds is wrapped in mocking purple.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan receives a blow on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is transfixed with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a lance.
We worship your Sufferings, O Christ (x3)
Show us also your glorious Resurrection.
Let us not feast like Jews, for our Passover too has been sacrificed for us, Christ God. But let us purify ourselves from all defilement, and sincerely beseech him, “Arise, Lord, save us as you love humankind.”
Your Cross, Lord, is life and resurrection for your people; and putting our trust in it, we praise you our crucified God. Have mercy on us.
When she who bore you saw you hanging on the Cross, O Christ, she cried out, “What is this strange mystery that I see now, my Son? How are you dying on a tree, nailed in the flesh, O Giver of Life?”
Then we sing the Beatitudes with verses, in Tone 4.
In your kingdom remember us, O Lord, when you come in your kingdom.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Through a tree Adam became an exile from Paradise; but through the tree of the Cross the Thief made Paradise his home: for the former through tasting set aside his Maker’s commandment, while the latter, crucified with him, confessed the hidden God, as he cried, “Remember me in your kingdom.”
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall be filled.
The lawless bought the Maker of the Law from a disciple, and as a lawbreaker stood him before Pilate’s judgement seat, crying, “Crucify” the one who gave them manna in the desert. While we, imitating the just Thief, cry with faith, “Remember us also, O Saviour, in your kingdom.”
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
The swarm of those who slew God, the lawless nation of the Jews, in their frenzy cried out to Pilate, “Crucify” Christ, the innocent. They rather asked for Barabbas. But we address to him the words of the grateful Thief, “Remember us also, O Saviour, in your kingdom.”
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Your life-bearing side, gushing up like a spring in Eden, gives drink to your Church, O Christ, as a spiritual Paradise, from there dividing, as into four heads, into four Gospels, it waters the World, making creation glad and faithfully teaching the nations to worship your Kingdom.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
You were crucified for my sake, that for me you might be a source of forgiveness. You were pierced in the side, that for me you might gush forth streams of life. You were transfixed by nails, that I, assured of the height of your power by the depth of your sufferings, might cry to you, O Christ, giver of life, “Glory to your Cross, O Saviour, glory to your Passion!”
Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
When you were crucified, O Christ, all creation saw and trembled. The foundations of the earth quaked with fear of your might. The lamps of heaven hid themselves and the veil of the Temple was rent. The mountains quailed, and rocks were split, and with us the faithful Thief cries to you, O Saviour, “Remember.”
Blessed are you when they revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.
On the Cross, Lord, you tore up our record, and numbered among the dead you bound the tyrant there, delivering all from the bonds of death by your Resurrection, through which we have been enlightened, O Lord who love humankind, and we cry to you, “Remember us also, Saviour, in your kingdom.”
Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.
Lifted up on the Cross, destroying the power of death and as God wiping out the record against us, O Lord, only Lover of humankind, grant the repentance of the Thief also to us who worship in faith, Christ our God, and who cry to you, “Remember us also, Saviour, in your kingdom.”
Let all of us believers pray with one accord to glorify worthily the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, a Unity of godhead existing in three Persons, remaining without confusion, simple, undivided and unapproachable, through whom we are delivered from the fire of eternal punishment.
O Christ, your Mother, who bore you in the flesh without seed, was truly Virgin and remained inviolate after child-birth, we bring in intercession, most merciful Master, to grant pardon of offences to those who cry, “Remember us also, O Savior, when you come into your Kingdom.”
From Vespers of Holy Friday
Verses on “Lord, I Call…”
All creation was changed by fear when it saw you hanging on the Cross, O Christ; the sun was darkened and the foundations of the earth were shaken; all things were suffering with you, the Creator of them all. You endured willingly for us. Lord, glory to you!
For your name’s sake I have waited for you, O Lord: my soul has waited on your word: my soul has hoped in the Lord.
All creation was changed by fear when it saw you hanging on the Cross, O Christ; the sun was darkened and the foundations of the earth were shaken; all things were suffering with you, the Creator of them all. You endured willingly for us. Lord, glory to you!
From the morning watch until night, from the morning watch: let Israel hope in the Lord.
Impious and lawless people, why do you meditate vain things? Why have you condemned the life of all to death? O great marvel! That the Creator of the world, who loves humankind, is betrayed into the hand of transgressors and lifted up on a tree, that he may free the prisoners in Hell. Long-suffering Lord, glory to you!
For with the Lord there is mercy, and with him plentiful redemption: and he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Today the blameless Virgin, when she saw you hanging on the Cross, with a mother’s love she lamented, bitterly wounded in her heart, groaning in lamentation from the depth of her soul, she struck her cheeks and tore her hair; and so, beating her breast, she cried out with grief, “Woe is me, my divine child! Woe is me, light of the world! Why have you left my sight, Lamb of God?” Therefore the armies of the Bodiless Powers were seized with terror as they said, “Lord, beyond understanding, glory to you!”
Praise the Lord, all you nations: praise him all you peoples.
When she saw you, O Christ, the Creator and God of all, hanging on the Cross, she who bore you without seed, cried bitterly: My Son, where has the beauty of your form departed? I cannot bear to see you unjustly crucified; hasten then, arise, that I too may see your resurrection from the dead on the third day.
For his mercy has been mighty towards us: and the truth of the Lord endures to the ages.
Today the Master of creation stands before Pilate, and the Creator of all things is given up to a Cross, led like a lamb by his own will. He has been transfixed with the nails, and he has been pierced in the side, and the lips of the One who rained down the manna are touched with a sponge. The Redeemer of the world is struck on the cheeks, and the Fashioner of all things is mocked by his own servants. O the Master’s love for mankind! For those who crucify him he implored his own Father, saying, “Forgive them this sin, for they do not know, the lawless, how wrongfully they act.”
Ah! how did the lawless assembly condemn the King of creation to death, without shame as they recalled benefits with which had protected them, as he reminded them, saying, “My people, what I have done to you? Have I not filled Judea with marvels? Have I not raised the dead with a word? Have I not healed every sickness and disease? How then have you repaid me? Why have you forgotten me, giving me blows for healings; putting me to death in return for life; hanging your benefactor on a Tree as a malefactor, the lawgiver as a lawbreaker, the King of all as one condemned.” Long-suffering Lord, glory to you!
A dread and marvellous mystery is seen to come to pass today. The Invisible is grasped, the One who loosed Adam from the curse is bound, the One who tries hearts and reins is tried; the One who shut the abyss is shut up in prison. He, before whom the Powers of heaven stand in fear, stands before Pilate; the Fashioner is struck by hand of the thing he fashioned; he who judges the living and the dead, is condemned to a Tree; the destroyer of Hell is shut up in a tomb. You bear all things with compassion, and save all from the curse, long-suffering Lord, glory to you!
The Reading is from the Prophecy of Isaias. [52:13-53:12]
Thus says the Lord: See, my servant will understand; he shall be exalted and glorified exceedingly. Just as there many will be astonished at you, so your appearance will be without glory from men, and your glory from the sons of men. So many nations will marvel at him; kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them about him they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? We brought a report as of a child before him, as a root out of dry ground; he had no form or glory, and we saw him, and he had neither form nor beauty. But his form was without honour and inferior to the children of men. He was a man in suffering and acquainted with bearing weakness, because his face has been away, he was dishonoured and not esteemed. He bears our sins and is in pain for us. We reckoned him to be in toil and in affliction and trouble. But he was wounded for our sins and crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment of our peace, and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in their own way, and the Lord handed him over for our sins. And he, because of his affliction, does not open his mouth; like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation his judgement was taken away; who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken away from the earth; because of the iniquities of my people he was led to death. And I will give the evil for his burial and the rich for his death, because he practised no iniquity, nor was there guile in his mouth.
And the Lord wishes to cleanse him of his blow. If you give an offering for sin, your soul will seed a long-lived descendence. And the Lord wishes to take away from the toil of his soul, to show him light and to fashion him with understanding, to justify the just one, who serves many well, and he will bear their sins. Therefore he will inherit many and divide the spoils of the strong. Because his soul was handed over to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and was handed over because of their iniquities. Rejoice, barren one who do not give birth, break out and cry, you who are not in labour, for the children of the desolate are more than those of her that has a husband.
Prokeimenon: Psalm 87
They have placed me in the lowest pit; in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Verse: Lord God of my salvation, I called for help by day; and by night also before you.
The reading is from the 1st Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. [1:18-2:2]
Brethren, the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God”s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia: [Psalm 68]
Verse 1: Save me, O God, for the waters have come in even to my soul.
Verse 2: And they gave me gall for my food; and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Verse 3: Let their eyes be darkened, so that they see not; and bow down their back continually.The Reading is from the holy Gospel according to Matthew.[27:1-38, Lk. 23:39-43, Matt. 27:39-54, Joh. 19:31-37, Matt. 27:55-61]
At that time all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus, so as to put him to death. They bound him and led him away and handed him over to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Then Judas, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, repented and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”
And flinging down the pieces of silver in the temple he went away and hanged himself. But the chief priests picked up the pieces of silver and said, “It is not permitted to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” So they conferred together and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners.
And so that field has been called “Field of Blood” until today. Then what had been said by the prophet Jeremy was fulfilled, when he said, “And the took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the one who was prized, whom they prized from the children of Israel, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord had commanded me.”
But Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned him saying, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “You say so.” And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders he made no answer.
Then Pilate says to him, “Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?” But he did not answer him with s single word, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
Now on the occasion of the feast the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd one prisoner whom they wished. They had at the time a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled Pilate said to them, “Whom do wish me to release to you? Barabbas or Jesus called Christ?” For he knew that they had handed him over through envy.
But while he was seated on the tribunal, his wife sent to him saying, “Have nothing to do with that just man. For I have suffered many things today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and elders had persuaded the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas.
Pilate says to them, “So what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?” They say to him, “Let him be crucified!” The governor said, “Why, what evil has he done?”
But they shouted even louder, saying, “Let him be crucified!” So Pilate, seeing that he was getting nowhere, but that a riot was starting instead, took water and washed his hands in full view of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man. You look to it.”
And the whole people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them, but Jesus he had scourged and handed him over to be crucified.
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort round him. They stripped him and dressed him in a scarlet cloak, and having woven a crown of thorns, they placed it on his head and a reed in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him and took the reed and struck it on his head. And when they had mocked him, they took off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.
As they went out they found a Cyrenian named Simon; they forced him to carry his cross. And they came to a place called Golgotha, which means “place of a skull,” and they gave him vinegar to drink mixed with gall. And when he had tasted it he would not drink.
When they had crucified him they divided his garments, casting lots, that saying by the prophet might be fulfilled, “They divided my garments among themselves, and cast lots for my raiment.” Then they sat down and watched him there. And over his head they placed his charge, which ran, “This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.”
Then they crucified with him two thieves, one on the right and one on the left.
One of the criminals hanging there blasphemed him, saying, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.” But the other answering, rebuked him and said, “Do you have no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; but he has done amiss.” And he said to Jesus, “Remember me, Lord, when you come in your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The passers by blasphemed him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Save yourself. If you are the son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also mocked him with the scribes and elders and Pharisees, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. If he is king of Israel, let him come down from the cross and we let us believe in him. He trusted in God, let him now deliver him, if he wants him. For he said, ‘I am the son of God.'”
The thieves, too, who had been crucified with him, reviled him in the same way. From the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice and said, “Eli, Eli, lama savachthani?” That is, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Some of those standing there when they heard said, “This one is calling Elias.” And one of them ran quickly and taking a sponge filled it with vinegar, placed it on a reed and gave it him to drink.
But the rest said, “Wait, let us see if Elias is coming to save him.” But Jesus, having cried out again with a loud voice, gave up the spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom, and the earth was shaken and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints who slept were raised, and coming out of their graves, after his rising they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
But the centurion and those with him watching Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, were greatly afraid and said, “Truly, this was the son of God.” So the Jews, that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, since it was the preparation—for that day was a great Sabbath—, asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be removed. So the soldiers came and the broke the legs of the first and the other who was crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus, as they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one of the soldiers with a lance pierced his side, and immediately there came out blood and water.
And the one who saw it has borne witness, and his witness is true, and he knows that he speaks the truth, that you also may believe. For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, “Not a bone of him will be broken.” And again another scripture says, “They will look on him whom they pierced.”
And there were many women there also watching from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, serving him. Among whom were Mary Magdalen and Mary the mother of James and Joses and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. When it grew late there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself also a disciple of Jesus. He approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Then Pilate ordered the body to be handed over. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in clean linen and placed it in his own new grave, which he had hewn from the rock. He rolled a great stone to the door of the grave and departed. But Mary Magdalen was there and the other Mary, seated in front of the tomb.
Then the Aposticha.
During the Aposticha takes place the solemn procession with the Winding Sheet [Epitaphion], which is placed in the middle of the Church.
When from the Tree the Arimathean took you down as a dead body, O Christ, who are the life of all, he buried you, with myrrh and a shroud; and with love he embraced your immaculate body with heart and lips; yet, shrouded with fear, he cried out to you rejoicing, “Glory to your condescension, Lover of humankind!”
Verse 1: The Lord is King, he has robed himself with majesty. The Lord has robed, and girded himself with power.
When in the new tomb you, the Redeemer of all, had been laid for the sake of all, Hell became a laughing stock and, seeing you, quaked with fear; the bars were smashed, the gates were shattered, the graves were opened, the dead arose; then Adam with thanksgiving cried out to you rejoicing, “Glory to your condescension, Lover of humankind!”
Verse 2: He has made the world firm; it will not be shaken.
When in the tomb in the flesh you were enclosed by your own will, O Christ, who by the nature of your godhead are uncircumscribed and unbounded, you unlocked the storehouses of Hell and emptied all his palaces; then too you granted this Sabbath divine blessing and glory and your own splendour.
Verse 3: Holiness becomes your house, O Lord, forever.
When the Powers saw you, O Christ, falsely accused by lawless men as a deceiver, they trembled at your ineffable long-suffering, and at the gravestone, sealed by the hands with which they had speared your immaculate side; yet rejoicing at our salvation, they cried to you, “Glory to your condescension, Lover of humankind!”
When Joseph with Nikodemos took you, who are clothed with light as a garment, down from the Tree, and saw you a dead body, naked, unburied, he was filled with compassion, and raising a lament he grieved and said, “Alas, sweetest Jesu, when a little while ago the sun saw you hanging on the Cross, it wrapped itself in gloom, and the earth quaked with fear, and the veil of the temple was rent in two; but see, I now look on you, who for me have willingly undergone death; how shall I bury you, my God? Or how shall I wrap you in shrouds; with what hands shall I touch your immaculate body? Or what songs shall I sing at your departure? I magnify your sufferings and I hymn your burial, with your resurrection, as I cry: Lord, glory to you!”