Suspended on the Cross
by Fr. Alex Radulescu
“Today, He who suspended the earth in the waters is suspended on a cross.” (Troparion from the Matins of Holy Friday)
Today, on the Great and Holy Friday, the Church commemorates the saving Passions of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Needless to say, this is a day of great sorrow for all the universe. On this day, Christ was suspended on a cross. And what kind of a cross? A cross of shame and punishment.
But who was supposed to suffer this type of punishment? This was meant for criminals, the enemies of the state, the spies, the lowlifes, the worst of the worse. After being falsely accused by the religious leaders of Israel and sentenced to death by the Roman authorities, Jesus was sent to die on a cross just like any other criminal.
Although He had the power to defend Himself, Christ did not stop them. He chose to sacrifice Himself on our behalf. Just as the sacrificial lamb would take upon its shoulders the sins of those offering it at the temple altar, so Christ offered Himself on the cross to take upon His shoulders our sins.
On Thursday evening, when we sing the Matins service for Friday, the priests bring the cross with Christ affixed on it to the front of the Church and place it there for veneration. This act is meant to remind us of the tragedy of Christ’s sufferings and death.
While the priests carry the cross in a procession, they sing this hymn:
“Today, He who suspended the earth in the waters is suspended on a cross. The King of the Angels wears a crown of thorns. He who wraps the sky in clouds is wrapped in a fake purple robe. He who freed Adam in the Jordan accepts to be slapped. The Bridegroom of the Church is fixed with nails to the cross. The Son of the Virgin is pierced with a spear. We worship Your Passion, O Christ. Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.”
It is a powerful reminder of how far did God go in order to save us. God, who created the universe who build up mountains, who created the animals and the plants, who gave us life in our mother’s womb, who placed the sun in the sky to share its light… this same God chose to descend to our level in order to raise us from sin and the corruption of death.
Friends, Christ emptied Himself of this great power to suspend (or establish) the whole Universe on its foundations. In spite of being a King, Christ came to serve us, not to be served (remember how He washed the feet of His disciples). In spite of His majesty, Jesus came in humility, born in a manger. Although being our High Priest from Heaven, He allowed the earthly religious rulers to accuse Him of blasphemy. Christ chose to be separated from His heavenly power in order to suffer together with us and for us. This was the only way. Through love, sacrifice, humility, forgiveness, Christ became one of us and suffered an unjust death. He took on His shoulder the punishment we deserved.
Let us reflect on this reality: the One who suspended the Universe on its foundations was suspended on the cross. The One Who created life gave His life so we can have life with Him forever. Amen.