April 14, 2017: Royal Hours for Great & Holy Friday

Kouvouklion.jpgIn many parishes either during Royal Hours or just after, the laity will decorate the tomb of Christ where later in the day the priest will place the Epitaphios. There isn’t anything strange or morbid about doing this. In fact, it is one of the most natural, one of the most human, things in the world.

From earliest times, human beings have taken care to honor the graves of our departed loved ones. One of the most serious moral obligations in the ancient world was to bury the dead with proper honor and respect. Failure to do was a grievous sin and one that the gods would punish.

For Christians, the decoration of the graves of our loved one flows naturally from the veneration we show to the Tomb of Christ. In both cases, we honor not simply the life of a loved one but bear witness to our conviction that death has been overcome “and joy has come into all the world.”

Theologically, decorating the tomb of Christ or the grave of a loved one is more than merely a question of expressing our affection and love for those who have died. It is, fundamentally, a proclamation of the Gospel. We decorate the graves of our loved ones because we venerate the Tomb. And all this we do because

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

So today as you arrange flowers on the bier, remember that what you’re doing is proclaiming the Resurrection of Christ! When, as always happen, you find yourselves getting annoyed with one each other, don’t despair! This is simply the devil trying to rob distract you from the joy of the Resurrection.

And when, as always happens, you find yourselves getting silly, maybe even laughing or singing, don’t berate yourselves (much less you neighbor!) but thank God! In that moment you are experiencing the joy of the Resurrection, of Death being trampled down by Death and liberty being proclaimed to all Creation!

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory