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Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk celebrates Ve…

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk celebrates Vespers of Good Friday with the procession of the burial-shroud.

On 22nd April 2022 on Good Friday, when the Church recalls the holy and saving Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the chairman of the Department of External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate the metropolitan of Volokolamsk Hilarion celebrated vespers with the procession of the burial-shroud in the Moscow Church of Our Lady of the Joy of All-Afflicted on Bolshaya Ordynka Street. Serving with the bishop were the clergy of the church.

After the burial-shroud had been placed in the centre of the church, metropolitan Hilarion delivered this sermon to the faithful:

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. On Good Friday we bring out the burial-shroud of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we may venerate the One who was crucified and died for us, in order to glorify the death which has become the fount of life, to glorify the One who sacrificed himself for our sins, for our redemption and who has opened up for us the path towards resurrection from the dead.

The Lord Jesus Christ took suffering upon himself voluntarily. Voluntarily, but also in obedience to the will of his heavenly Father. How can this be? Because his will did not contradict the will of his heavenly Father, but was in full harmony with the will of the Father, in complete obedience to it. So, when it pleased God the Father to send his Only-Begotten Son to death, he meekly accepted this death, although his soul was pained and yearned, although humanly he was afraid of death and turned to his Father with the words: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26.39). But as he knew that this was impossible, he continued: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26.39). The Lord Jesus Christ therefore accepted voluntary suffering.

He knew that he had come into this world to suffer and to die. Jesus Christ spoke many times about this to his disciples and foretold it, even though at that moment they could not understand what their Teacher was telling them. But after his death and resurrection they recalled all of these predictions and made them part of the sacred texts which would later form the foundation of the New Testament. From the Gospels we also learn that the Lord came into this world to die, to sacrifice himself and to surrender his soul for the redemption of many.

Today we stand before the tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ and recall his last hours and minutes of his earthly life when he was nailed to the cross and when he addressed to God the words of the psalm: “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15.34).

When we read about this, we every time wonder how is it possible that God could abandon God, that the Incarnate God, the God who became man, could feel abandoned by God the Father. The theologians of the Holy Church have explained this by saying that the Lord Jesus Christ was never, not for a single moment, abandoned by God the Father, that he always abided with him, even when he called to God the Father from the cross. But as a human being he was to take upon himself torments and drink from the cup of suffering to the very bottom. And at the bottom of human suffering, along with physical torments (we know that the Lord endured terrible physical afflictions as he was not only nailed to the cross but before that he was subjected to a cruel scourging), we encounter that suffering of the soul which afflicts us when it seems that we have been abandoned by God – the suffering of being left by God, when we no longer wish to live, when it seems that God is distant from us when we feel abandoned and forsaken.

Our Lord Jesus Christ assumed human flesh, but not only flesh – he also assumed a human soul and a human mind, and all of human nature. Many theologians have attempted to explain this mystery. Some have mistakenly interpreted the Divine Incarnation as to mean that as the Gospel states that the World became flesh, this means that that his flesh was human while his spirit and soul are divine.

Yet the Lord assumed humankind in its fullness, both flesh, soul and spirit. He was to endure all of the sufferings which ordinary people endure. Therefore, he experienced not only physical torments, but also endured torments of the soul, as the Gospel tells us.

The Church tells us that after the Lord reposed on the cross and surrendered his soul into the hands of the heavenly Father when he said: “It is finished!” (Jn 19.30), his soul then descended into hell so that the light of God may shine forth there also and so that the Gospel may be proclaimed there too.

Now we stand before the Life-bearing Tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ and glorify his Passion and his death, foretasting his resurrection which we begin to celebrate tomorrow when we cast off our dark vestments and put on bright ones.

But this evening we shall gather again here once more by the Tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ to accomplish his burial and glorify him along with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. And we shall accompany the Mother of God who, according to the Gospels, was ever present by the Lord’s cross and who, according to Church Tradition, took part in the removal of his body from the cross and in his burial and never left the tomb until she had seen him risen along with the few women who remained by the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and who were witnesses to his burial. Amen.”

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