Holy and Great Friday Services at Saint Volodymyr
Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL Metropolitan Area
Holy Friday! What a solemn day in the life of any Christian. On this day the Church commemorates the sufferings of Christ: the mockery, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, the thirst, the vinegar and gall, the cry of desolation, and all the Savior endured on the Cross.
The day of Christ's death is the day of sin. The sin which polluted God's creation from the breaking dawn of time reached its frightful climax on the hill of Golgotha. There, sin and evil, destruction and death came into their own. Ungodly men had Him nailed to the Cross, in order to destroy Him. However, His death condemned irrevocably the fallen world by revealing its true and abnormal nature.
The day of Christ's death has become our true birthday. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins.
Over 200 parishioners, relatives and members of the community at large gathered in the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Volodymyr (Chicago, IL) in solemn witness of the sacrifice of the Lord in order to participate in the Vespers service, at which the Holy Shroud is brought out of the sanctuary and placed in the midst of the faithful for veneration.
The ruling hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, who was assisted by the clergy of the cathedral’s community Very Rev. Fr. Ivan Lymar (pastor), Rev. Fr. John Charest and Protodeacon Andriy Fronchak, prayerfully led the evening service. Assisting the hierarch at the Vespers service were the altar servers of the cathedral and the four seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary (South Bound Brook, NJ) Subdeacon Mykola Zomcha, Subdeacon Ivan Venhryn, seminarians Yaroslav Bilohan and Myroslav Mykytyuk.
In his remarks, the archbishop directed the attention of the faithful to the profound and awesome event of the death and burial of God in the flesh, as it is marked by a particular kind of silence.
"One the cross we see the love of God. On the cross we see the mercy of God on the cross we see the grace of God," said Vladyka Daniel. “On this day, we see the Son of God Himself, hanging on the cross on account of our sins. We are not only witnesses to the Holy Passion of our Good Savior, but we become participants in the story of our salvation. At this moment, by His death, the Lord has redeemed us from our sins. The Lord has also cast the final judgment over, Satan, over sin and over death. He has declared them powerless before His almighty throne…”
“…The events of Good Friday are about Jesus being condemned, crucified, bled and died. The Cross is the great paradox of Christianity. More than a few people have asked me over the years why the Holy Orthodox Church focuses so prominently and persistently on the Cross of the Lord. Behind the events of crucifixion is what gave the Lord the greatest agony, namely, the denial by those He taught and healed and the deliberate denial and betrayal by Apostle Judas and Holy Apostle Peter, by His disciples. Imagine what the Jesus felt, when He saw Peter in spite of his earlier promises to do so, declined and denied the Lord. What a suffering?
Even Apostle Peter, while much loved by the Lord, and having been privy to the exchange regarding Judas, still doesn’t seem to get it! Like Apostle Peter, we often see only what Judas did but fail to realize that we deny and betray Him in so many ways: we doubt some of His teachings and pick and choose them, we deny Him our time – we have time for everything but for God. Jesus is worth more than billions but Judas sold him on discount at 30 pieces of silver. Like Judas we sell Christ Jesus at a discount when we equate him to humans and prefer human laws to the laws of God, when we receive the Holy Eucharist without properly confessing our sins, when we are ashamed to talk about Him before our relations and friends or pray in a public places…”
His Eminence continued: “…For me one of the best and most challenging parts of at the Metropolia Center of our Church in South Bound Brook, NJ is the number of memorials to past clergy and leaders of our Ukrainian-American community. There are “saints” and, to be honest, not so dedicated to the message of Christ; the brilliant and the dull. Some were heroes, doing the right thing for the right reason; others acted cruelly and brutally; all had mixed motives and characters.
Good Friday, the day on which Christians remember the death of Jesus on the Cross, challenges all our reasons for everything we do, all the motivations we claim for any action. Great and Holy Friday has that healthy and necessary aspect that is found in many faiths, of a time for self-examination.
As I look at the images of war in Ukraine, Syria and others parts of the world - I am struck by the savagery and bitterness, the utterly perverted reasons, of the attackers and perpetrators, carrying out not right deeds but the most deeply wrong ones that could be imagined, and the contrast with the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. He was the one person in history Christians believe to have had only pure motives for all He did, and for me He sets the standard for both actions and reasons.
he nature of hatred is that it is infectious. Terror wins when it causes others to fear or hate. On Great and Holy Friday terror and oppression are met by love, with Jesus praying for the forgiveness of those who caused his death. Christians, considering the Cross, see God crucified because of human cruelty and sin.
The mystery of the immense savagery of human beings, of our desire to use power to harm not heal, is one that confounds all attempts to explain it away. The depth of the grip on us held by lust for power, and the desire to dominate others is judged by the Crucifixion. Before it, we are confronted with our wrong reasons and actions.
But I find myself also confronted with the love of God that goes deeper than our cruelty, of God’s reaching out to us that goes beyond our pride and power seeking. On this day, in this week, I find hope because for me at the end of all things God is over all…”
Vladyka Daniel invited everyone to enter into the mystery of the tomb of Christ, putting our hopes and prayers at His feet, so that we can come out on Pascha morning and proclaim to the world that the Lord has Risen!
In conclusion, Archbishop Daniel stated: "Let this night be a time for all of us, individually and together to revitalize our spiritual life and to involve ourselves more in the life of our parish community and the world around us!"