Today, on Great and Holy Friday, we stand still at the tomb of Christ. Last night lengthy accounts of His Passion were read at Matins and today the priest removes the Body of Christ from the Cross, wraps it in white linen and places it on the altar. He then takes the Epitaphion, the cloth on which the Body of Christ is painted or embroidered, from the altar and this is carried in procession before being placed in a sepulchre that represents Christ’s tomb.
Here we see the final condescension of Christ our God, who submits to death for our sake. And yet we also begin to sense His victory over death. For Christ, having conquered death by His death, has now gone down to wake the dead. The earth is still and yet hell trembles. And, as we anticipate His resurrection from the dead, the Church prays,
When from the Tree the Arimathean took You down as a dead body, O Christ, who are the life of all, he buried You with myrrh and a shroud; and with love he embraced Your immaculate body with heart and lips; yet, shrouded with fear, he cried out to You, rejoicing, “Glory to Your condescension, O Lover of mankind!”
When in the new tomb You, the Redeemer of all, had been laid for the sake of all, Hell became a laughingstock; seeing You, he quaked with fear; the bars were smashed, the gates were shattered, the graves were opened, the dead arose; then Adam with thanksgiving cried out to You, rejoicing, “Glory to Your condescension, O Lover of mankind!”
The Holy Gospel according to Matthew 27:62-66:
Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore order the sepulcher to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the sepulcher secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.