This Service is actually the Orthos of Friday, served by anticipation on Thursday night. Commemoration is made of the holy, saving and awesome sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ: the spitting, the striking, the scourging, the cursing, the mockery, the crown of thorns, the purple cloak, the rod, the sponge, the vinegar and gall, the nails, the spear and above all, the cross and death, that He voluntarily endured for us. Also we commemorate in this service the saving of the grateful thief who was crucified with Him.
The nucleus of the service stems from the 4th century with subsequent developments in stages through the centuries from elements of the Cathedral & monastic offices of both Jerusalem and Constantinople. The actual portion of the service that includes the procession of the cross around the church nave is of recent times. It originated in the Church of Antioch and was introduced in Constantinople in the year 1864 although practiced in Jerusalem in a different form from the 4th century.
This service contains besides the normal reading of psalms at the beginning of any Orthos, 12 Gospel pericopes, superb by hymnography that includes a group of 15 antiphons interspersed in the beginning portion of the service, the singing of the Beatitudes after the Procession of the Cross and vivid liturgical actions that bring the Passion of Christ and its cosmic significance into sharp focus.
But clearly the most unique feature is the series of 12 Gospel Readings read at various intervals in the lengthy service.
• The 1st pericope relates the account of the Lord's discourse with the disciples at the
Mystical Supper sand is the longest of the readings.
• The next 10 pericopes deal with accounts of the Lord's betrayal and suffering as
found in the writing of all 4 Evangelist, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
• After the 5th Gospel reading the Solemn Procession of the Cross is made. The Cross
used in the actual large cross normally in the sanctuary behind the altar table. It is
processed through the nave then placed on the center of the Solea and the faithful
have the opportunity to venerate it as the service continues.
• The last pericope gives the account of the Lord's burial and the sealing of the tomb
with both stone and military guards of the Roman government.
The response after each Gospel reading is a variation of the normal response on other
days of the year (Glory be Thee Lord, Glory be to Thee). At this service we respond with
"Glory to Your long-suffering. Lord, Glory to Thee." (Doxa ti makrothemia Sou
Kyrie, Doxa Soi.) The focus of our praise is the forbearance of our God. This distinct liturgical
formula signifies the deep reverence that we approach the awesomeness of the
Beloved, come and place yourself at the foot of Christ's Cross by your presence and participation!