One of the most powerful hymns of Holy Week (in my opinion, the most powerful), is a hymn known as “Simeron Kremate,” or “Today is Hung Upon the Cross.” This hymn is intoned by the priest as he carries the cross of Christ around the church in one of the two most dramatic moments of the week (the other being the giving of the Light on Pascha). The hymn is then chanted by the people, as they kneel. (The hymn is repeated again Good Friday morning at the Service of the Royal Hours).
The hymn begins with the statement “Today is hung upon the Cross, He Who suspended the earth amid the waters.” How profound of a statement is that! Imagine that you have a clothesline hanging in your yard and you hang all your clothes on it that you used in the past week. There would be a lot hanging there. Now imagine that you think of the creation of the world as a clothesline, on which God hung the heavens, the earth, the moon, the sun, the stars, the animals, the plants, the trees, all the birds and the fish, and every human being who has ever lived. The amount of things would be infinite. You couldn’t possibly hang all of them, or see all of them, or number all of them, or comprehend all of them.
We know the Jesus Christ was present at the Creation. He is the “Word” of God that spoke all the words of creation. He later became incarnate, took on flesh, and became a man, like one of us, while also remaining God. And we human beings, the society of the time, took Him, the One who placed the earth amid the waters, and hung Him on the Cross, like the worst of criminals. The One Who is the King of angels, wore a crown of thorns, was mocked, buffeted, nailed to a cross, and pierced with a lance. How could that have happened?!
Pontius Pilate looked Jesus in the eye and asked “What is truth?” (John 18:38) He looked Truth in the eye, and couldn’t comprehend Who he was looking at.
The message of Jesus contains simple truths. The most important commandments are to love God and love neighbor. The followers of Jesus are not working for an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. We are to love our enemies and turn the other cheek when we are attacked by them. We need to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, both now, and forever.
These are simple truths. Nowhere in Scripture are Christians encouraged to hate. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Christians should be wealthy. We are supposed to be generous. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that church communities should be social or cultural clubs. We are supposed to make disciples, preach the word and help those in need.
The message of Christ is actually pretty simple to articulate. It is a little challenging to live. In the world today, many are accusing Christians of being hateful and judgmental. In many corners of the world, that is probably deserved. Of course, in many it is not. In many ways, society is like Pontius Pilate, demanding to know “what is truth?” and looking at the simple and beautiful truths of Christianity as if they are the backbone for everything that ails society. Sadly, in many corners, the Christians are also like Pontius Pilate. We look at Christ and ask “What is truth?” as if hoping the answer will not only be simple in words but simple in actions, that it will conform to whatever we define as truth, rather than how He defines it.
Near the end of the hymn we head the words “We worship Your Passion, O Christ.” Is that true for you? Is that true for me? Because if it is, if the Passion and subsequent Resurrection are things to be worshipped, then we do not only check in with these truths on Sundays but we check in with them on a daily basis. In other words, we believe that our lives have meaning because of the Crucifixion and Resurrection and that becomes a daily truth that guides us at all times.
It is indeed a profound thing that the Son of God laid down His life for us, and did so freely. It is indeed a profound thing that God the Father sent His Son into the world to die for us. It is sadly profound that the society of the time that Jesus walked the earth, teaching, encouraging, and healing, and delivering a message of love, could come to a point where the people looked truth in the eye and demanded He be crucified. And it is a profound reality that in the society of today, in many ways, we are doing the same thing—We are condemning Christ and His message of salvation again.
We’ve got to get back to basic truths, many of which are found in this hymn. Christ was co-Creator of the world, with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Together everything that was ever created, including human beings, was created by God in His image. As Creator, God is the King of all, even the angels. If He is our King, then we are supposed to serve Him. It is God who wrapped the heavens with the clouds. It is Christ who freed Adam in the Jordan, when He was baptized and the Trinity was revealed publicly for the first time in the history of humanity. He is the Bridegroom of the Church, the one Who desires each of us to be His bride, because He laid down His life for us. Christ is the Son of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit. She serves as a role model for what we are called to be, God-bearers of our own accord.
The hymn concludes with the words, “Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.” This of course refers to the Resurrection we are about to celebrate two days later, on Holy Saturday night, but in a larger sense, it is the Resurrection from the dead for all those who believe in God. And it is made possible not only by Christ’s Passion, but by our willingness to live for Christ and die trusting Him, and this begins by first identifying Christ as our truth, and letting that truth lead us each day.
Christ, our God, Who is our Passover, is sacrificed for us; therefore let us not keep the Feast as the Judeans, but let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement, and sincerely beseech Him: “Arise, O Lord, and in Your mercy, save us.” (15th Antiphon, 12 Gospels, Holy Thursday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
Two thousand years ago, people saw truth and killed Him. Two thousand years later, in many ways we still are. Christ said “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6) Let’s make the truth of Christ the way of our lives, as we work our way back to our Father in heaven.