Preparing the Easter Sepulchre at Xenophontos
Following Byzantine monastic tradition going back to the eleventh century, Athonite monasteries create a symbolic sepulchre to re-enact the burial and resurrection of Christ. The sepulchre is adorned with fragrant flowers on the morning of Good Friday and then set in front of the iconostasis in the naos (church interior). At Vespers (evening service) on Good Friday, the epitaphios—an embroidered textile representing the full-length corpse of Christ—is laid on the symbolic sepulchre to mark the point in the Gospel where the deposition of Christ’s body is described. During matins (early morning service starting about 1:00 a.m.) on Holy Saturday, the lament or Threnos over the body of Christ is sung, and the burial of Christ re-enacted again by carrying the epitaphios in a solemn funeral procession around the church and depositing it on the sepulchre. The resurrection is re-enacted at Vigil of Easter by the lifting up of the epitaphios and processing it to the altar in the sanctuary.