On Great & Holy Friday at 6:00pm, we will hold the service of Vespers and the burial services with the Shroud (Ἐπιτάφιος, Плащаница, نعش).
On Great and Holy Friday the Orthodox Church commemorates the death of Christ on the Cross. This is the culmination of the observance of His Passion by which our Lord suffered and died for our sins. This commemoration begins on Thursday evening with the Matins of Holy Friday and concludes with a Vespers on Friday afternoon that observes the unnailing of Christ from the Cross and the placement of His body in the tomb.
During this service, the removal of the Body of Christ from the Cross is commemorated with a sense of mourning. Once more, excerpts from the Old Testament are read together with hymns, and again the entire story is related, followed by the removal of Christ from the Cross and the wrapping of His body with a white sheet as did Joseph of Arimathea.
As the priest reads the Gospel, “and taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in a white cloth,” he removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps it in a white cloth and takes it to the altar. The priest then chants a mourning hymn:
“Joseph of Arimathea took Thee down from the tree, the Life of all, cold in death. Bathing Thee with sweet and costly myrrh, he gently covered Thee with finest linen, and, with sorrow and tender love in his heart, he embraced Thy most pure body. Trembling at this awesome sight, he cried out to Thee, O Christ: “Glory to Thy condescension, O Lover of man!”
The priest then carries the cloth on which the Body of Christ is painted or embroidered around the church before placing it inside the Sepulcher, a carved bier which symbolizes the Tomb of Christ. We are reminded that during Christ’s entombment He descends into Hades to free the dead of the ages before His Resurrection.