Архієпископ Даниїл Очолив Богослужіння Великої Пʼятниці у Бенсенвил, штат Ілиной
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.
On Good and Holy Friday (April 14, 2023), the most solemn day of the liturgical year, parishioners, relatives, and members of the community at large gathered in Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Bensenville, IL, for a 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.
On this holy day, the faithful commemorated the death of Christ on the Cross and His burial, with the spiritual father of the cathedral community and the Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, who was assisted by the pastor of the parish’s community Very Rev. Fr. Bohdan Kalynyuk, Very Rev. Fr. Andriy Shelvakh, Very Rev. Fr. Oleksiy Kasperuk, as well as the visiting clergy from Ukraine - Very Rev. Fr. Petro Steblyna, Very Rev. Fr. Borys Zharovsky, Rev. Fr. Yaroslav Vasylyk and students of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary: Subdeacons Maksym Zhuravchyk, Andrii Akulenko, Roman Marchyshak and Yurii Izhyk. The liturgical services of the day are the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon/evening that observes the veneration of the shroud.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel reflected in his sermon: “It is finished.”
Many said words like those that day. Pilate pushed himself up from the judgment bench and sighed, “Jesus is finished, another political troublemaker out of the way.”
The religious leaders looked at one another and said in hushed tones, “Jesus is finished. No more offense from him.”
The soldiers as they turned their backs and walked away: “Finished. It is over, our unpleasant but necessary work for the day.”
The crowds as they watched Jesus breathe his last and his head slump down, lifeless: “Finished. The spectacle is over.”
All comments on the moment, comments on the day, comments made by those with limited vision.
Not so with Jesus’ final word, tetelestai, which is Greek for “It is finished.” This is a word of cosmic import, a word of timeless importance, of universal significance. It is finished. Jesus’ last word. It’s just one word in the language of the Bible.
“It is finished” – his concluding declaration, his last word, the final punctuation on a sentence begun before the beginning. With this word of completion, finality – “finished” – we are reminded how all began in St. John’s gospel:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him. In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.”
And so Jesus’ word, word of Word incarnate, this one word, which we translate as “it is finished,” is the final punctuation on a sentence begun before all that is, before we were knit together in our mothers’ wombs, before the first light, first life, first spark, first dream, first bursting forth of creation.
The final punctuation on a sentence spoken in love, spoken across space, time, through ages, prophets, patriarchs, teachers, and in these last days, spoken to us by Christ Jesus.
The final punctuation on a sentence spoken, lived in love; spoken, sung, breathed, in words such as “And I, when I am lifted up, I will draw all to myself.” Words such as “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love, spoken in actions: touched and touching, taught and teaching, love reaching out, healing, embracing, lifting; calling “beloved” those called wrong, weak, small, outcast, other, sinner.
The Word incarnate spoke love in words, in deeds, spoke love in handing himself over, giving himself up, pouring himself out, until there is nothing left, nothing more needed, just one last breath, one last word. God’s sentence of love spoken across time, space, boundaries, on the cross – spoke its final syllables, in gasps, in an agonized whisper, in pain, yes, but with precision, point and power. This is no giving up, this is declaration: “It is finished.” Period.”
Vladyka Daniel concluded his remarks with another brief reflection, touching upon the ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine. He brought forth an image of the broken cross of the Lord at the entrance to the city of Irpin, Ukraine – the cross of the Lord with a broken arm, simply hanging off the bar of the cross. Vladyka painfully exclaimed – He is crucified… once again… by the barbaric atrocities of the Russian aggression. He is crucified today – but tomorrow is PASCHA and through Him we shall Rise and so will the ancestral homeland Ukraine!
Lighting the memorial candle, the archbishop 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!