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 we celebrated the last of the three Bridegroom Matins services. Wiki informs us in the post on Holy Week (and the East) that tonight in Greece a significant (majority?) of the sex trade industry workers attend this service. Why? Well, while the service has other things which it touches on two major themes play back and forth throughout the service. The first of these keys on the event from Luke 7 with the Pharisee and the harlot, the second is Judas starting to unfold his particular role in the Passion narrative (and in a later parallel devotion in which Mary sister of Lazarus anointing Jesus feet with expensive perfume).

One of the striking things is the repetition and insistence of two points. The harlot’s sins where egregious (and she was repentant and was forgiven) but mine are worse … and while she has begged forgiveness … why have I not done the same. Specifically in one of the refrains sung, “Though I have transgressed more than the harlot, O Good One, I have not offered You a flood of tears ….” Toward the end, we sang a poignant and beautiful hymn which I will relay here (at least the text). Cassia is apparently the name appointed to the harlot (by the whom or what tradition I do not know).

The Hymn of Cassia

The woman had fallen into many sins, O Lord,
yet when she perceived your divinity,
she joined the ranks of the myrrh-bearing women.
In tears she brought You myrrh before Your burial.
She cried: “Woe is Me!
For I live in the night of licentiousness,
shrouded in the dark and moonless love of sin.
But accept the fountain of my tears,
as you gathered the waters o the sea into clouds,
Bow down Your ear to the sighing of my heart,
as You bowed the heavens in your ineffable condescension.
Once Eve heard your footstep in paradise in the cool of the day,
and in fear she ran and hid herself.
But now I will tenderly embrace those pure feet
and wipe them with the hair of my head.
Who can measure the multitude of my sins,
or the depth of Your judgments, O Savior of my soul?
Do not despise Your servant in your immeasurable mercy.”

It should be noted in the Matins services and in scattered throughout Orthodox liturgical prayer, canon, and hymnody great praise and honor is granted to those women called the Myrrh bearing Women who first came to the tomb and discovered it to be empty and met the angel therein. This harlot, this prostitute is granted the same honor and praise for far before his passion she too bore myrrh and tears as a precursor to those other women as well.

The Gospel reading was far shorter tonight, only John 12:17-50.

Filed under: ChristianityMark O.OrthodoxReligion

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!