The vigil of Good Friday night is one of the most powerful for those who come to pray at the tomb before the image of Jesus. It has always convicted me in my heart of my sins, and every year, sad to report, there are some new ones that need conversion from.
The Byzantine tradition followed by Orthodox and those Byzantine Churches in union with Rome, is caught in the tension between heart rending sorrow and anticipating the Resurrection.
He Who holds the whole universe in His hand is raised upon the Cross, and all creation weeps as it sees Him hanging there. The sun hides its rays and the stars lose their brightness; the earth quakes and is filled with fear; the sea draws back and the rocks split in two; the tombs open and the bodies of the saints rise; Hades laments and the Sanhedrin gathers to fabricate a story to deny the resurrection of Christ; and the women cry out: Behold the Sabbath transcendent in blessing in which Christ has slept and shall rise on the third day.
O Blessed Tomb that sheltered the sleep of the Creator! You have become the divine treasure of life; this was done for our salvation and we praise Him: blessed are You, O Lord, for You save us.
He Who dwells in the highest heavens accepts burial beneath a sealed rock; and God Himself is treated as a deceiver! O Youths, bless the Lord; praise Him you priests; and let the whole nation exalt Him forever.
Thus the Office of the Jerusalem Matins cries out and weeps!
The Gospels tell us that on the Sabbath, the women prepared spices to finish the burial ritual, but stay inside observing the rest of the Sabbath. But in the Matins, Our Lady cannot rest. She rested her face against the hard stone of the tomb, after the burial was complete, and weeps for her only and most special Child. Her grief torments the hearts of John, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the women led by Mary Magdalene: the mother of Jose (and possibly James the Just and Jude), the wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John; Salome; Joanna who left Herod’s palace; Mary of Clopas.
The service also includes this promise in Ode 9:
Do not weep for Me, Mother, even though you have seen lying in the tomb the Son to Whom you gave birth in a wondrous manner; for I shall arise and be glorified; and in My divine glory, I shall forever exalt the faithful who love you and sing the praises of your glory.
Here we see two things:
1. the compassion of Jesus for the Theotokos, the Mother of God, consoling her in her inconsolable grief, whispering to her in her heart with the good news that His promise of resurrection will be fulfilled;
2. the source of Marian devotion in the Eastern and Western Churches: Jesus will exalt those who, following the Magnificat in Luke, call her blessed and who love her: it is because of her intimate closeness with Jesus. Finally, a little something to enjoy today: the recipe for the special cookies that teach us the truth of Easter:
Make these Easter cookies with children while telling the story of Jesus dying on the cross. You do not eat them until Sunday morning because they are part of the Easter Story and you get a surprise, when you open the oven door the cookies will be empty inside just like Jesus’ tomb.
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
A pinch salt
1 cup sugar
A zipper baggie
A wooden spoon
Begin on Holy Saturday, the night before Easter.
Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit
Place pecans in zipper baggie and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break them into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested the Roman soldiers beat him. Read John 19: 1-3.
Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30
Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10: 10-11
Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23: 27
So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar to the bowl. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalms 34:8 and John 3:16.
Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God’s eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1: 18 and John 3: 1-3.
Fold in crushed pecans.
Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheets. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matt. 27: 57-60.
Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus’ tomb was sealed. Read Matt. 27: 65-66.
GO TO BED! Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers’ were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16: 20 and 22.
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter morning, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt. 28:1-9
THE LORD HAS RISEN!
Resource: Recipe by Wanda Long and appeared in Home Life Magazine.