His Grace Varlaam of Ploiesti, assistant bishop to the patriarch, led this year’s God Friday Matins with the Lord’s Lamentations at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest.
At the end of the service, the believers were led by the assembly of priests in the traditional epitaph procession around the church.
At the end of the procession, the Epitaphios was brought back to the church.
After the clergy carried the Epitaphios in, they stopped just inside the entrance to the church, and hold the Epitaphios above the door, so that all who entered the church would pass under it.
Referring to the hymns of the Lamentations to the tomb, the Patriarch’s auxiliary bishop noted that they are ‘a calling to us all to take part with all our being to this overwhelming drama, the greatest one in the history of humanity.’
By singing the Epitaphios Threnos (Lamentations upon the Grave), Bp Varlaam said that we stand by the ‘most-beloved Mother of the Lord, setting forth these hymns of lamentation for the death of the Saviour and for the terrible boldness of man to rise up against his Maker.’
In his homily, Bishop Varlaam of Ploiesti spoke of the Saviour’s loneliness during his judgement, passion, and crucifixion.
‘Through the multitude of believers who fill the churches on this evening all over the country we want to redeem the guilt of those who once left our Saviour Jesus Christ alone during his moments of suffering,’ he added April 6.
Matins of Holy and Great Saturday (in parishes usually held on Friday evening) takes the form of a funeral service for Christ.
The entire service takes place around the Epitaphios, an icon in the form of a cloth embroidered with the image of Christ prepared for burial.
The first part of the service consists of chanting Psalm 118, as usual at both Saturday matins and at funerals, but interspersed with hymns (enkomia or lamentations) between the verses.
The predominant theme of the service is not so much one of mourning, but of watchful expectation:
Today Thou dost keep holy the seventh day,
Which Thou has blessed of old by resting from Thy works.
Thou bringest all things into being and Thou makest all things new,
Observing the Sabbath rest, my Saviour, and restoring strength.
Near the end of matins, at the end of the Great Doxology, the Epitaphios is taken up and carried in.
Photography courtesy of Robert Nicolae / Basilica.ro