As an introduction for those of Western traditions or are unfamiliar with the Eastern Christian traditions, during our Holy Week this week I thought it might be useful to summarize what we do at our Church during this week and some of my thoughts and impressions during the week.

Tonight is the second of three “Bridegroom Matins” services, held in anticipation not in the morning but in the previous evening. Matins is normally a morning service but during Holy week in anticipation this is moved forward to the prior evening. Jewish tradition held that the day begins at sundown. Liturgical tradition follows that, but as noted above “in anticipation” moves the Matins service at time at which in more ordinary times Vespers services would be held.

The service begins with introductory prayers and then the Six Psalms read at Matins (of which we read cut that slightly short and only read three), Psalm 3, 37, and 62 are read. Then after intercessory prayers, the Bridegroom Troparian (short hymn) is sung three times toward the beginning of the service:

Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight,
and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching;
and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep,
lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom.
But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, are You, O our God!
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us!

The Bridegroom matins service itself moves then to sing about the parable which gives these services their name. The parable of the wise virgins who trimmed their wicks and conserved their oil so when the Bridegroom (which would be Christ) arrived they were prepared and had oil to burn for the wedding feast.

The Gospel reading is long reading from Matthew 22:15 through 23:39. In this repeatedly we hear Jesus sparring verbally with the Jewish Temple hierarchy, Pharisees and Sadducees with a repeated phrase, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” heard throughout.

This prayer was read in the middle of the services and captures the tenor of the many of the hymns and readings:

Why are you idle, O my wretched soul?
What useless cares cause you to be lost in dreams?
Why busy yourself with things that pass away?
The last hour is at hand, and we shall be parted from all earthly things.
Therefore while there is yet time, rouse yourself and cry
“I have sinned before You, O my Savior.
Do not cut me off like the barren fig tree.
In Your compassion, O Christ, take pity on me who call out with fear:
Let us not remain outside the bridal chamber of Christ.”

In this service, we are reflecting that we wish to be more like the wise virgins but we are not. We ask God’s grace that he he might wake us to do His will.

These services are done just the three times in the year, and this is the first one at our Parish this Holy week. Father reminded us that to counter the hypocrisy mentioned in the Gospel readings, humility was required. We need to do those things, each according to our gifts, with humility if not in secret. And, I might add, our choral performance was, well not our best. Humility comes to mind. 😉 It should be better tomorrow night as many tonal elements will be the same again Tuesday night … which will be chance for us to correct (some of) our mistakes.

Filed under: ChristianityMark O.OrthodoxReligion

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