What do we see in this picture? Where are we? We are in the tomb with Jesus. The title of this image is “the Man of Sorrows”, which refers to a famous passage in the prophet Isaiah: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).
What does this face show us? We see suffering. This dead face is set in a frown. There are dark shadows under the eyes – the shadow under the left eye is like a bruise. The shoulders are hunched and tense, while the arms are limp and useless.
Then we see an incredible vulnerability here. Jesus has the mouth of a sleeping child, with the lower lip sucked under the top lip, for comfort. The head is bent as if in sleep. We see the openness of Jesus to suffering and death. We see God made poor, weak and helpless.
And yet the image does this without being sentimental. This face has no trace of self-pity, but instead is full of dignity and majesty. Even after the mockery of the trial, the agony of the scourging and the desperate struggle of the crucifixion, the face of Jesus is still the face of a king. Look at the powerful, arched eyebrows, which are stern without being severe. Look at the hair, which is so full of life – hair like the mane of a lion.
This picture shows us the beauty of Christ in his complete obedience to the will of God, at vast cost to himself, and also in his unconditional love for us. Because it is for us, for our sake, that he is here like this. And this creates longing. The Orthodox liturgy for Holy Saturday has a prayer which is filled with this longing…
“O faithful, come, let us behold our Life laid in a tomb to give life to those who dwell in tombs. Come, let us behold him in his sleep and cry out to him with the voice of the prophets: ‘You are like a lion. Who shall arouse you, O King? Rise by your own power, O you who have given yourself up for us, O Lover of mankind.’”
Spend a few moments in
thought and prayer while
you’re at your computer. If it’s
night-time, you might want to
dim the lights in your room.
Read aloud this verse from
Joseph put the body in his own tomb
that had been cut into solid rock and had
never been used. He rolled a big stone against
the entrance to the tomb and went away.
For the first followers of Jesus, this was the end of the road, the end of hope. They had no expectation that anything extraordinary would happen. As that heavy stone was rolled across the entrance to Jesus’ tomb, it really seemed like The End.
Think of the names of people you know who have lost hope in some area of their lives. Once you’ve gathered a few names, take some night-lights and write the name of each person on the casing of the individual night-lights. Take time light each of them, remembering the person they represent, speaking their name out loud.
Here’s a prayer from Psalm 16. Try praying it out loud for your friends and for yourself, too…
I praise you, Lord, for being my guide.
Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind.
I will always look to you, as you stand beside me
and protect me from fear.
I am your chosen one.
You won’t leave me in the grave or let my body decay.
You have shown me the path to life,
and you make me glad by being near to me.
Sitting at your right side, I will always be joyful.
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Follow the three days of Easter with icons, meditations and a simple walk-through prayer exercise which you can do sitting at your computer.
From Good Friday to Easter Sunday… follow the three days of Easter by looking at three pictures from the Eastern Church. These pages also include a simple walk-through prayer exercise for each of the three days, which you can do at your computer.
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