The Matins service for Great and Holy Friday (served on Thursday evening) includes the 12 Gospel readings and recounts the arrest, trial, humiliation, suffering, and execution of our Lord, the Son of God Himself. It is a long and exhausting service, but should it not be the case that a service that recounts the long and exhausting ordeal our Lord was subjected to be discomfiting and tiring? During this service, we are invited, in a very small way, to identify with our Lord’s suffering and try, as best we can, to understand what it is He endured on our behalf. Think now of this verse from the Gospel of Matthew:
“When he returned to the disciples and found them sleeping, he said to Peter, “Could you not watch with me for one hour?”(Matt. 26:40)
The Lord suffered what He did because we continually fall into sin. We are the cause of His crucifixion. Though He volunteered to endure it, had we not fallen, His sacrifice would not have been necessary. Is it too much to ask that we watch and pray while the Lord prepares Himself to be delivered up to death so that we might be delivered from it? It is a small thing to ask, is it not? He asks so little of us and is willing to give all of Himself in return. And, yet, sometimes we think that that little He asks of us is too much…
The Passion of our Lord and the 12 Gospel readings are not all about the Lord’s suffering, however. This service also anticipates His glorification, His victory over death and His Resurrection. While the enemy of life eagerly anticipated his own impending victory over his own creator, in fact, the gates of Hades were about to be torn down and death was about to be defeated once and for all! Thus we are reminded that we are not here re-enacting a tragedy but rather the greatest triumph the world has ever known!
The Twelve Gospel readings are:
John 13:31-38; 14-18:1
John 18:28-40; 19:1-16