Today, which is Good Friday on the Gregorian calendar, my Byzantine Catholic e-friend Dan sent me this YouTube video of the hymn “Give me this stranger.” It is Byzantine chant sung in Arabic, and it’s about 10 minutes long. It’s not very impressive visually – just a series of very slow pans over icons of Christ’s burial – but the music is otherworldly.
This hymn is sung on the night of Great and Holy Friday at the end of the Lamentation service, which commemorates Christ’s burial. It is sung from the point of view of my patron saint, Joseph of Arimathea. Many of the hymns on Holy Friday mention St. Joseph, but this is one of only two that are sung from his point of view. (Interestingly, both of these are in tone 5, as opposed to the hymns about him, which tend to be in tones 2 and 6.) An English translation of the hymn follows.
Seeing that the sun had hidden its rays and the veil of the Temple had been rent at the death of the Saviour, Joseph did approach Pilate and did plead with him crying and saying,
Give me this stranger, who from his youth hath wandered like a stranger.
Give me this stranger, whom his kinsmen killed in hatred like a stranger.
Give me this stranger at whom I wonder, beholding him as a guest of death.
Give me this stranger who knoweth how to take in the poor and strangers.
Give me this stranger whom the Jews in envy estranged from the world.
Give me this stranger that I may bury him in a tomb, who being a stranger hath no place whereon to lay his head.
Give me this stranger, to whom his Mother, beholding him dead, shouted crying, “O my Son and my God, even though my vitals be wounded, and my heart burns, as I behold thee dead, yet trusting in thy Resurrection, I magnify thee.”
In these words the honorable Joseph pleaded with Pilate, took the Saviour’s body, and with fear wrapped it in linen and balm, placing thee in a new tomb, O thou who grantest to all everlasting life and the great mercy.