The hymns for Holy Friday force us to look at the insanity of those who crucified Christ. Sometimes the reflection is put into Christ’s mouth (as below), or sometimes in the mouth of His Mother.
When You were led to the Cross, O Lord, You said, “For what act do you wish, O people, to crucify me? Is it because I have strengthened your cripples? Is it because I raised your dead as from sleep, healed the woman with an issue of blood, and showed mercy on the Canaanite woman? For what act, O people, do you desire my death?” But you shall behold Him whom you have pierced, O law-transgressors, and know that He is Christ.
Some translations name “the people” as “the Jews,” or “the Judeans,” which has a certain historical accuracy about it, a specificity that I usually encourage. Religious experience is generally too mental. Emphasizing a specific place and time and people helps us escape from our fantasy, our imagined–often romanticized–Christ. Generally speaking, I think our religious experience needs more, not less specificity.
However, in this case, I think “the Jews” or “the Judeans” are not useful translations. Too quickly when we hear these words our minds imagine someone else. That is, we imagine some ancient people that we are not a part of. Or, and this is the worst scenario–a scenario that has played out tragically through out history–we imagine that “the Jews” equates to the people who though the ages have called themselves Jews. According to this scenario, our neighbours are responsible for Christ’s crucifixion, not us. And this, my brothers and sisters, is not the teaching of the Church.
Certainly Christ was a Jew living in Roman Judea, and so “the people” who crucified Christ were Romans and Jews–who else? They couldn’t ship in Norwegians to do the deed. Christ was crucified by His people, the people whom He healed and raised from the sleep of death. So today, when we speak of those who crucified Christ, we can only be referring to ourselves, we who have received Grace, we who have been healed, we who have hope in the Resurrection. We are the ones who crucified Christ.
And we are the ones who continue to crucify Christ. This is the teaching of the Church. This is why we remember Christ’s death and burial and third-day resurrection the way we do. We crucify and are crucified with Christ. We die and are buried with Him. And we rise a New Creation, healed by the One we have killed.
Of course, you are right, Fr. Michael! We continue to crucify Christ every time we make someone else our victim. What is so tragic about the crucifixion is that even those closest to Him were able to take part in their own way. We are also responsible for denying Him and even betraying Him in "the least of His brethren." In our secular society of today, our betrayals are rampant.