First, a reading from Numbers, where Moses lifted the brazen serpent on the pole to heal the people after their disobedience brought a plague of poisonous serpents; Jesus specifically referred this to himself when he was talking to Nicodemus in John 3. Then, Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant again.
And Isaiah 12-13: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid, for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he is also become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord, for he hath done excellent things; this is known in all the earth.
Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. . .
“Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. . . For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. . .”
Amos 8:9-12: “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day; and I will turn your feasts into mourning. . .”
Here a number of hymns are interjected into the order of readings; I will quote the most theologically significant. (Ok, for honesty’s sake I’ll admit that there are a fair number of hymns to Mary, and general remarks to the saints here, too, which I am omitting; my father says that the most objectionable of these were introduced in the 1800s under Catholic influence, that the Copts did not spontaneously write very strong statements to Mary.)
O my Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the cross, trample down Satan under our feet.
O you who in the sixth day and at the sixth hour was nailed to the cross because of the presumptuousness of Adam’s sin in Paradise, tear asunder the handwriting of our sins, O Christ our God, and save us.
O Jesus Christ our God, who was nailed to the cross at the sixth hour, and has slain sin by the tree, and has by your death given life to the dead, even to men, whom you created with your own hands, and who were dead in sin.
You have wrought salvation in the midst of the earth, O Christ our God, when you stretched your pure hands upon the tree of the cross. Wherefore all nations cry out, saying, Glory to you, O Lord.
O Only Begotten, Eternal, Immortal Word of God, who for our salvation did will to be incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary:
Who without change became man and was crucified; O Christ God:
You trampled down death by death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Holy God, who being God, for our sake became man without change:
Holy Mighty, who by weakness showed forth what is greater than power:
Holy Immorrtal, Who was crucified for our sake, and endured death in his flesh, who is Eternal and Immortal.
“Forsake me not, O Lord; O my God, be nor far from me.
Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.” Ps. 38:21-22
“They parted my garments among them, and cast lots for my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O Lord; o my strength, haste thee to help me. . .
He trusted on the Lord, that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, if he delight in him.” Ps. 22:18-19, 8
Then the gospels, describing Christ carrying his cross, being crucified, the mocking of the people, and the one thief who believed in him, which leads to this hymn. The chorus is given (and sung) in English, Greek (those religious imperialists!), Coptic, and Arabic. This tune is faster and hopeful, and the whole congregation joins in. (Bear in mind that from the point in Matthew where “darkness came over the earth,” until the end of this hour, the lights are all turned off until the ninth hour, and we’re reading by the light that slips in the windows around the curtains.)
O King of Kings, Christ our God, Lord of Lords, as you remembered the thief who believed on you, on the cross, remember us in your kingdom.
Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
Remember me, O Holy One, when you come into your kingdom.
Remember me, O Master, when you come into your kingdom.
Who has ever seen a thief believing in a king? This thief by his faith stole the kingdom of heaven and the paradise of delight.
Mnesthete mou, Kyrie, en te basileia sou.
Mnesthete mou, Hagie, en te basileia sou.
Mnesthete mou, Despota, en te basileia sou.
Because of your deeds, o thief, you hung on the cross, condemned; and because of your faith, you received grace and joy, the kingdom of heaven and the paradise of delight.
Aripamevi, O Bashois, akshani khen tek metouro.
Aripamevi, O Phe-ethowab, akshani khen tek metouro.
Aripamevi, O Pa-ooro, akshani khen tek metouro.
You did not see Christ, God, glorified on Mt. Tabor in the glory of his Father; but you did see him hung on the Kranion, and you cried out, saying:
Iskurni, Ya’Rabb, ma’ta gita fi malakutek.
Iskurni, Ya’Qudaas, ma’ta gita fi malakutek.
Iskurni, Ya’Sayeed, ma’ta gita fi malakutek.