Great and Holy Friday | A Reflection from the Byzantine Catholic Tradition

The Deposition (Descent) from the Cross
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus taking Christ down from the cross after his crucifixion (John 19:38-42)

“Together with Nicodemus, Joseph took you down from the wood –
you who are wrapped in light as with a robe
and beholding you dead, naked and unburied,
he began to mourn you with deep sympathy saying:
Woe is me, sweetest Jesus!

Just a little while ago, the sun saw you hanging on the cross
and veiled itself in somber hues.
The earth rocked with fear and the curtain of the Temple was torn in two. Now that I see how you willingly underwent death for me,
How can I bury you, my God? How will I wrap you in a shroud?
How will I touch your spotless body with my hands?
What dirges shall I sing at your departure, O Compassionate One?

I extol your passion and I praise your burial together with your resurrection,
crying out: O Lord, glory to you.”
(Apostichera from Good and Holy Friday Vespers – Byzantine Catholic Tradition)

Good and Holy Friday can be a difficult day as we remember in sorrow the crucifixion, death, and burial of our Savior Jesus Christ. These age-old Holy Friday prayers of the Byzantine tradition remind us of the hope we can always cling to. These ancient words of the church teach us that we can indeed ‘praise His burial together with His resurrection.’ As we sorrowfully remember His death, we wait in hope for the joy that is to come — the salvation Christ promised. Praise Him whose ultimate sacrifice has saved us. Glory to you, O Lord Jesus Christ!

May we end this Holy Friday reflection guided by Joseph of Arimathea and, most poignantly, the wisdom of Christ’s Mother, our Mother, as depicted so beautifully in this closing hymn:

“Come, let us bless the ever-memorable Joseph,
who went to Pilate by night to beg for the Life of all:
Give me this Stranger, who has no place to lay his head.
Give me this Stranger, who was handed over to death by his wicked disciple.
Give me this Stranger, whose Mother wept, seeing him hanging on the cross,
mourning and crying out in a motherly lament.
Woe is me, my child!
Woe is me, my Light, my Beloved whom I bore in my womb.
What was foretold by Simeon in the temple comes to pass today:
A sword has pierced my heart,
but change my tears into the joy of your resurrection.
We bow to your passion, O Christ!
We bow to your passion, O Christ!
We bow to your passion, O Christ and to your holy Resurrection!”

(Closing Hymn from Good and Holy Friday Vespers – Byzantine Catholic Tradition)

I encourage you to spend some time praying with the Descent of the Cross icon at the beginning of this reflection. Icons are windows into Heaven, a sacred way for us to pray and be in the presence of the Lord. May God be with you in a special way on this most sacred day of our Catholic faith. Wishing you a truly Holy Good Friday. Glory to Jesus Christ!

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Melissa is a wife, mama, and Catholic artist striving to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit. Whether onstage or with a pen and paper, she finds deep joy and fulfillment in sharing God's truth and beauty through singing, acting, and writing. She has performed on Broadway and in the National Tour of Les Misérables. Currently, she is pursuing a M.A. in Theology through Augustine Institute, and alongside her husband, Stephen, does music ministry, having previously led the music of Frassati Fellowship in NYC. Follow their music at and on IG @treelilymusic

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