O Life, How Can You Die?

 

In a tomb they laid You, O Christ the Life. The angelic hosts were overcome with awe and glorified Your condescension.
O Life, how can You die? How can You dwell in a tomb? Yet by Your death You have destroyed the reign of death and raised all the dead from Hell.

The music of Holy Week is the most beautiful of all the liturgical year, whether in the Western Church or the East, or in the Orthodox Church.  The words above are taken from the Lamentations for Holy and Great Saturday in the Orthodox Church.  These are sung as part of the Matins of Great and Holy Saturday, during a unique service that takes place on Good Friday  evening.

A tomb festooned with flowers is erected in the church upon which is placed a life-sized icon of the dead Savior, called the epitaphios, or winding sheet, around which the service is centered.  You can read more about the service here.  One beautiful part which struck us is that after a procession around the outside of the church with the epitaphios, the faithful enter the church again by passing under the icon, signifying their entrance into the death and resurrection of Christ.

As with so much of the Eastern and Orthodox liturgy, the words of the many chants are poetic and sublime.  Below are the three Lamentations sung professionally by a Greek Orthodox Church in California.  They make an ethereal and contemplative background for your Holy Saturday as you prepare for the Mother of All Feasts tonight, the Easter Vigil.

The words (though not this exact translation) of the Lamentations, as well as many of the other Holy Week chants may be found here.

 

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