“Let all mortal flesh fall silent, and stand with fear and trembling.”
Beloved brothers and sisters! There are sorrows that are beyond lamentation, when it seems that the heart is bleeding and paralyzed, as it were, in its measureless suffering. There are sorrows that words cannot express, which can be vented only by warm tears shed in complete silence. But I will say more: there is grief that is beyond tears, for tears ease the soul, while this grief is the stupor of inexpressible horror. This is how the Mother of God suffered at the Cross, where her Son – the meek, innocent Son of God and Redeemer of the world – was dying in agony.
The Myrrhbearers experienced such sorrow when they were preparing the breathless body of Jesus and when they were burying their beloved Teacher, their hope. Mary Magdalene shed tears of grief at the Tomb of Christ. She was weeping so bitterly, and her grateful, loyal soul was so immersed in grief, that she did not recognize the Lord when He asked: Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?
My beloved brothers and sisters, we, too, are standing at the Savior’s Tomb. The Divine Sufferer laid therein is infinitely dear to us, too. So how should we stand here? We, too, are accustomed to having Him always beside us in our sorrows, joys, and difficulties on all the paths of our lives. But now He requires our assistance and attention. The Sun that illumines the entire world with its purity and love has been extinguished. The heart burning with concern for all is no longer beating. The precious blood has ceased to flow; the bloody wounds on His tormented body have become clotted. We stand as once a small group of His faithful friends stood around Him. Yet with what feelings? With what thoughts?
“Let all mortal flesh fall silent, and stand with fear and trembling; be mindful in himself of nothing on this earth.”
There is no room for words at this Tomb. Let our love for the Suffering Christ be expressed through trembling silence and sincere, heartfelt tears. What should we think about and contemplate in this silence? Of course: about Him, about Him alone, Who is worthy of our love, attention, and gratitude.
Let us think: Who is before us? What kind of life did He live? What kind of death did He accept? For whom was it all? Let us think about it, become conscious of it. The sinless Son of God came to earth for the salvation of His creation; He took on human existence; and, finally, He accepted a torturous and shameful death. For what? For whom? For our sins. For the redemption of fallen humanity.
The chastisement of our world was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. The chastisement of our world was upon Him. How much iniquity, injustice, evil, wickedness, oppression, and dissipated passion was there and is there in the world – all of which He bore to Golgotha; all of which tormented His wounds more greatly; all of which was the cause of His death.
And our personal sins – how many there are! He underwent all this and died for us. And we? Are we able to die for Him as He died for us? Are we able to bring Him at least something in sacrifice? When we bury a good friend we bring living flowers to his fresh grave. What can we lay on the Tomb of our precious and beloved Lord? What can we bring Him as a final gift?
Tradition tells us that the Myrrhbearers did not rest their eyes all night as they prepared the precious myrrh with which they anointed the body of their Beloved. And what, my beloved brothers and sisters, have we prepared? Although exhaustion has closed our eyes, we have stood and tried to find at least a drop of warmth in our souls for our Lord, Whom we all so love, since we so desire to thank Him for His love and boundless patience for us.
Let us bring Him the eternally living flowers of the virtues: humility, love for Him and our brethren, commitment to our holy faith and the Holy Orthodox Church, abstinence, purity, and the many, many more beautiful flowers of the virtues, which will be the best offering for the Savior’s Tomb.
After all, we have gathered here because we love our Lord Jesus Christ; we have gathered to honor and venerate His tortured and breathless body. But it can happen during these holy minutes that are souls are so poor, so meager in goodness, that we cannot find anything therein to bring to the Lord’s Tomb.
What should we do if the holy fast has passed poorly for us, if we have not spent it as we should have? One woman was ill the entire time. She did not go to the services and did not keep the fast, but was patient in her sickness. On Holy Saturday night, when everyone had fallen asleep, she crept out of bed, crawled on her knees to the front corner, fell on her face, and wept. Tears flowed down her face and onto her clothes. Finally she raised her head and said: “Lord, I have no fragrant myrrh for the Holy Burial Shroud; I do not have a single good deed; I have only these bitter tears of mine. Accept them, as You accepted those of the harlot.”
Let us also fall down before His Tomb, my dear ones. Let us fall down with tears, saying: “Merciful Lord, we do not have the precious myrrh of the virtues with which to anoint Your all-pure body. We have nothing, although we, too, would like to bring You something that is good and precious. But accept these our tears, as You accepted the widow’s two mites. Accept this our worship, our nocturnal wakefulness, and our small prayer, that we may be found worthy of seeing Your glorious Resurrection.” Amen.
Translated from the Russian.