Holy Friday and Death of Rue: Beflowered Shroud of Christ

I am back from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and St. John The Baptist Orthodox Church (right), where my family celebrated Holy Friday, Holy Saturday, and Pascha this past weekend. My older daughters were able to join us which made the occasion even more memorable and joyous.

I had a Hunger Games thought, believe it or not, during the beautiful Lamentations burial service on Friday night. After the procession of the Lord’s Burial Shroud outside the Church, it is placed as His body into the tomb in the center of the nave where the congregation stands, women to the left, men to the right. Those gathered then venerate the Shroud one at a time after making several prostrations before the tomb.

The Hunger Games image that was striking, I think, to all of us there in my family who had recently read the Suzanne Collins novel was that, after placing the Shroud or epitaphios on the table-tomb, a cloth on which Christ’s crucified body is sewn, the priest and other clergy and lay people cover it with flowers. The resemblance of the adored and beflowered divine corpse and Katniss’ decoration of Rue’s slain body at her death was striking.

And, yes, I thought, if the ‘Rue’ = ‘Conscience’ = ‘Christ’ connection needed to be made, this was a visual argument, of sorts, or at least a remarkable mental picture and parallel of grief for a sinless, seemingly senseless death. It is the image that haunts Katniss throughout the rest of the Games trilogy and one so poignant that Peeta, the Christ symbol who rises from the dead soon after Rue’s death, uses it to shame the Gamesmakers in the Capitol in Catching Fire.

Is Rue’s flower shroud meant to recall the epitaphios venerated on Holy Friday? I have speculated elsewhere that Collins is Roman Catholic (for which there is no evidence outside of story points, if it seems to have become Wikipedia fact), but, even if she is, I do not think this is Catholic practice, except for that faith’s Uniate churches. As striking as the parallel and image is, especially when tied into Peeta’s victory over death in his tomb-cave as a prologue, I think we’d need Ms. Collins’ confirmation to say it with anything like certainty.

To this Orthodox Christian, however, on Holy Friday, the connection was striking as I said and an edifying echo of the historical and eternal event we were entering. If Collins turns out to be Orthodox or a Byzantine Roman Catholic (‘uniates’ are Catholics that use Orthodox liturgies rather than western rites), I think I’d shift this connection from “interesting possibility but unlikely’ to “probable association.’


  1. I saw the movie with my sons before I read the book, and when Katniss placed the flowers around Rue’s body, it was one of the rare times a movie has made me cry. I, too, felt the similarity of both how we Orthodox put flowers around Christ’s tomb, but also how lovingly we venerate the bodies of our departed.

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