Source: Passion on the Cross depicted in a Syriac ms.
Good Friday, referred to as the Friday of Crucifixion in the Syriac Orthodox Church, falls on the Friday before the Sunday of Ressurection (Easter) and commemorates the crucifixion of Christ.
Probably the most moving service and full of symbolism, it is held at the close of the Third Hour prayers on Friday evening. The service consists of many orders:
The First Procession
Unlike all other processions throughout the year, which start from the northern door of the sanctuary, the First Procession starts from the southern door and ends at the northern door, signifying the carrying of the Cross by Christ from Pilate's palace to Golgotha. During the procession, the celebrant carries a cross, covered in a black linen, on his right shoulder.
It is usual during processions for the faithful to kiss the cross and the bible which are carried by the clergy. During this procession, however, the kissing of the cross and other objects is not practiced. In fact, during passion week, the faithful abstain from kissing each other on the cheek (the usual manner of greeting) even in a social context.
During the procession, the following hymn is sung:
Qolo: Kadh Nopheq
As He was coming out of the city, carrying His Cross on His shoulders,
The Hebrew women gathered to weep over Him bitterly.
His mother was standing afar, accompanied with her acquaintances,
As a dove she began to moan with grief and sorrow:
"Wither my Son, wither my beloved One are you going?
"Where are they taking You? Why did You give Yourself
"In the hands of the ungrateful ones?
"Woe is me, my beloved One. What happened to You this day?"
Blessed be Your Passion which was for us,
And blessed is Your humiliation which was on our account.
Adoration of the Cross
After this First Procession, the clergy stand before the sanctuary, with the curtain closed, the cross stripped bare and fixed on a stand with two lit candles, one on each side symbolizing the two thieves who were crucified with Christ. Later, during the Gospel reading, and when the celebrant reads "But the other [thief] rebuked him (Luke 23:40)", a deacon breaks the left candle which symbolizes the bandit who blasphemed against Christ. At the reading "Now it was about the sixth hour and darkness fell upon earth (Luke 23:44)", a deacon turns off all the lights in the Church. Following the reading "And immediately the curtains at the door of the temple were torn in two, from the top to the bottom (Matthew 27:51)", the curtain of the later is drawn back to the center (i.e., half open and half closed).
Following the Ninth hour prayer, the cross is taken down and put on a table, after which the clergy perform the lengthy Order of the Adoration of the Cross. Some extracts are given here:
Qolo: Mshabhin Lokh Moryo
Today, the Judge of the world bent His head in a court
And was condemned like a servant.
Today, we praise and venerate the Cross,
And at all times, we glorify Him Who was crucified on it.
Qolo: Qum Pawlos
On Friday, the creation was shaken
And mourning befell all the quarters of the world.
The Ruler of both worlds was crucified on the Cross,
And was ridiculed.
The sun darkened and hid its rays;
The earth was burst asunder and delivered its prisoners.
The heavenly hosts and the fiery ranks
Fluttered their fiery wings miraculously.
At the conclusion of the Veneration of the Cross, deacons read from the Old Testament (Genesis 22:1-14; Exodus 17:8-16; Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-8) and from the New Testament (1 Peter 2:19-25; Galatians 2:21-3:14). The celebrant then reads from the Gospels. Unlike all the other readings throughout the year, this particular one is a harmony (i.e. a mixture from the four Gospels) taken from Luke "and his friends" as the service book tells (Luke 23:49, Matthew 27:55-56, Mark 15:41 and John 19:31-37).
At the conclusion of the Gospel reading, the celebrant stands before the cross and offers incense chanting the following hymn thrice. After each time, the congregation repeats the hymn after him. Then each clergy member (priests and deacons in their hierarchical order), chant the same hymn once with the congregation repeating after each one of them.
Entreaty: Soghdeenan Lasleebo
We bow before the Cross by which we receive salvation for our souls,
And with the thief we cry out: Remember us, O Christ, in Your second coming.
The Second Procession and the Zuyoho
At the conclusion of the above hymn, the celebrant carries the cross on his left shoulder proceeding with the rest of the clergy with the second procession, this time starting from the northern door of the sanctuary towards the southern door.
A coffin full with flowers (but no Cross) is carried throughout the procession on the shoulders of a few men (usually three on each side). It is traditional in some churches to choose some of the elderly for this task. During the procession, the faithful seek blessing from the coffin by going under it from one side to the other.
Following the Second processing, the Order of Zuyoho "Elevation" of the Cross is held. This order consists of four prayers performed facing East, West, North and South, respectively.
Following the Zuyoho, then the celebrant carries the Cross on his arms, symbolizing the carrying of the body of Christ, and put it on the alter to commence the rite of burial.
The Order of Burial of the Cross
While the deacons chant various hymns, the celebrant stands on the altar step and mixes vinegar with myrrh in a small basin. He moistens the four corners of the cross with this mixture. He then holds the Cross above the basin and washes it with rose water, symbolizing the washing of Christ's body by Joseph and Nicodemus.
The Cross is then embalmed with frankincense, covered with ure cotton and wrapped in a fine linen cloth. A white burial napkin must be bound around the head, and the loins must be bound up with a girdle. Then the cross is placed in the coffin and buried in a special place under the altar. From that point on, it is strictly forbidden to celebrate the Holy Qurbono (Eucharist) on that altar until the time of resurrection. When laying the cross in the tomb (i.e., inside the altar), the head must be towards the South, the feet towards the North, the face towards the East and the right side on the floor so as to press the wound of the spear. The cross should be reclining on its side symbolizing Ezekiel who reclined on his side for thee hundred and ninety days (Ezekiel 4:4-6). Therefore the back should not touch the floor.
The two fans are placed on each side of the altar closing the entrance to the tomb, with a lit lamp in front of the tomb. The door of the tomb is sealed with wax until Easter Sunday.
During the Burial, the following hymn (amongst others) are sung:
The burial of the Christ, our King,
Became life for humanity.
Had He not been put in the tomb,
The high gates of Paradise would not have been opened.
Grant, O my Lord, the souls of Your departed servants,
Who have slept trusting in You,
To dwell and have rest in Your Paradise.
At the conclusion of the burial, the faithful partake of a very bitter drink mixture to remind themselves of the passion and the suffering of Christ Who bore the sorrows of mankind (Isaiah 53:4). The faithful must be careful as not to drop any part of this drink.
The Cross remains buried until the day of resurrection.
Ma`de`dono: The Book of the Church Festivals (1984).