“Thou who at the ninth hour tasted death in the flesh…”

The Altar of Repose at St. Stephen Orthodox Church (AWRV) on Good Friday afternoon, 2012

The Altar of Repose at St. Stephen Orthodox Church (AWRV) on Good Friday afternoon, 2012

O Master, Lord Jesus Christ our God, Who art long-suffering in the face of our transgressions, and Who hast brought us even unto this present hour, wherein Thou didst hang upon the life-giving tree, and didst make a way into paradise for the wise thief, and by death didst destroy death: Be gracious unto us sinners and Thine unworthy servants; for we have sinned and committed iniquity, and are not worthy to lift up our eyes and behold the height of heaven, for we have abandoned the way of Thy righteousness, and have walked in the desires of our hearts. But we beseech Thy boundless goodness: Spare us, O Lord, according to the multitude of Thy mercy and save us for Thy holy name’s sake; for our days were consumed in vanity. Rescue us from the hand of the adversary, and forgive us our sins, and mortify our carnal mind; that, putting aside the old man, we may be clad with the new, and live for Thee, our Master and Benefactor; and that thus by following in Thy commandments, we may attain to rest everlasting, wherein is the dwelling-place of all them that rejoice. For Thou art indeed the true joy and gladness of them that love Thee, O Christ our God, and unto Thee we send up glory, with Thine unoriginate Father, and Thy Most-holy and good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

This is the prayer that Orthodox Christians read at the Ninth Hour, at 3 p.m., every day.  Christ hung on the Cross until 3 p.m. when he “gave up the spirit.”  The rocks were split, the earth quaked, the dead arose, the veil of the temple was torn in two.  The veil that separated God from Man was torn in two.  The sun darkened its rays and the moon her light.  All of creation mourned the death of the Son of God.  All creation mourns what happened yesterday at the ninth hour, too.

I pray we’re able to live that life of repentance spoken of in scripture.  I pray we’re the wise thief at this time, saying to Christ, “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” It’s is a phrase we repeat constantly.  The kingdom is to those who suffer, a place of relief.  To those who mourn, a place of comfort.  To those who fear, a place of security.  We are promised the Kingdom at our baptism, we experience a foretaste of the Kingdom at the Divine Services and in the sacraments.  In our churches we find a safe harbor, a place of peace and true security.

A friend of mine gave a sermon the other week in which he reminded us that in Christ we find security, a security that is complete and whole, a security that is filled with the peace of God.  And Christ has given us his peace: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid” (Jn 14.27).

At this time of uncertainty, a time where we are bombarded by the news reports and see the increased security around us, remember that in Christ we acquire true peace and security.  With that peace our hearts are not troubled, nor are they afraid.

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