Holy Wednesday

On Wednesday, the church offers the congregation the sacrament of holy unction. The priest anoints the faithful with blessed oil, representative of the healing power of God. The scriptures connect bodily illness to sin. Christ confirms this connection when He says to the paralytic in healing him,

``your sins are forgiven''

He thus indicates that His power to forgive and His power to heal are two different aspects of the same ministry.

The drama of the passion is unfolding faster now.

The most solemn event of the Christian calendar is about to take place. Christ will be crucified tonight. His passion will be reenacted in the most soul searing service of the Orthodox Church. Twelve gospels will be read, and numerous hymns will be sung, describing the events leading up to His crucifixion. The purpose of the lengthy service is to approximate Christ's suffering, to help the congregation feel that they are present at the passion. The meaning of the words, the sound of the chanting, the portrayal of the crucifixion, bring mind, body and soul together in the glory of the sacrifice. You will see blood spilled tonight. You will hear screams of hatred and pain. You will see mobs and soldiers and weeping women.

In the first gospel according to John, Christ tells his disciples that where He goes they cannot follow... Peter protests that he would lay down his life for Him ... and Christ tells him that before the rooster crows he will deny Him thrice. The He prophesies on the events of the next few hours ..., they will weep and lament but that the world will rejoice...

The second gospel according to John describes the betrayal by Judas Iscariot ... and Peter's denial ... Matthew then relates the interrogation of Christ, and the 4th and 5th gospels describe His trial and torture, leading up to the crucifixion on Golgotha. Pontius Pilate questions Him on the meaning of truth; then he tells the mob that the prisoner is innocent and that He should be released according to the Passover custom, but the mob chooses Barabas instead. Pilate washes his hands, and Christ is led to the place of the skull, Golgotha, where soon He will be put to death. The hymn being sung is the most moving of the entire Orthodox hymnal... The priests and the chanters are singing,

``Σήμερον κρεμμάται επί ξύλου
ο εν' ύδασι την γήν κρεμάσας
Στέφανον εξ ακανθών περιβάλλεται
ο των αγγέλων βασιλεύς...''
`Today is hung upon the tree
the one who suspended the land in the midst of the waters.
A crown of thorns crowns
him who is the king of angels...''

Another Hymn sung in the 8th tone, expresses the bitterness of the crucifixion:

``Τάδε λέγει Κύριος τοις Ιουδαίοις.
Λαός μου τί εποίησα σοι,ή τι σοι παρηνώχλησα;
τους τυφλούς σου εφώτισα, τους λεπρούς σου ακαθάρισα,
άνδρα όντα επί κλίνης ηνωρθωσάμην.
Λαός μου τί εποίησα σοι και τί μοι ανταπέδωκας;
αντί του μάννα χολήν, αντί του ύδατος όξος... ''
Oh My people, what have I done unto thee,
or wherein have I wearied thee?
To thy blind I gave light, thy lepers I cleansed,
thy paralytic I raised up.
Oh My people, what have I done unto thee,
and how hast thou recompensed Me?
Instead of manna, gall; instead of water, vinegar ...''

The faithful, still numb with the death of God, return to their house ... Mary and the disciples go to mourn the sacrificed Son of God, and wait for His promised resurrection.


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