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Archive for March, 2010

Bridegroom Matins

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From the OCA website:

These three days, which the Church calls Great and Holy have within the liturgical development of the Holy Week a very definite purpose. They place all its celebrations in the perspective of End ; they remind us of the eschatological meaning of Pascha. So often Holy Week is considered one of the “beautiful traditions” or “customs,” a self-evident “part” of our calendar. We take it for granted and enjoy it as a cherished annual event which we have “observed” since childhood, we admire the beauty of its services, the pageantry of its rites and, last but not least, we like the fuss about the paschal table. And then, when all this is done we resume our normal life. But do we understand that when the world rejected its Savior, when “Jesus began to be sorrowful and very heavy… and his soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death,” when He died on the Cross, “normal life” came to its end and is no longer possible. For there were “normal” men who shouted “Crucify Him [” who spat at Him and nailed Him to the Cross. And they hated and killed Him precisely because He was troubling their normal life. It was indeed a perfectly “normal” world which preferred darkness and death to light and life…. By the death of Jesus the “normal” world, and “normal” life were irrevocably condemned. Or rather they revealed their true and abnormal inability to receive the Light, the terrible power of evil in them. “Now is the Judgment of this world” (John 12:31). The Pascha of Jesus signified its end to “this world” and it has been at its end since then. This end can last for hundreds of centuries this does not alter the nature of time in which we live as the “last time.” “The fashion of this world passeth away…” (I Cor. 7:31).

Pascha means passover, passage. The feast of Passover was for the Jews the annual commemoration of their whole history as salvation, and of salvation as passage from the slavery of Egypt into freedom, from exile into the promised land. It was also the anticipation of the ultimate passage – into the Kingdom of God. And Christ was the fulfillment of Pascha. He performed the ultimate passage: from death into life, from this “old world” into the new world into the new time of the Kingdom. And he opened the possibility of this passage to us. Living in “this world” we can already be “not of this world,” i.e. be free from slavery to death and sin, partakers of the “world to come.” But for this we must also perform our own passage, we must condemn the old Adam in us, we must put on Christ in the baptismal death and have our true life hidden in God with Christ, in the “world to come….”

And thus Easter is not an annual commemoration, solemn and beautiful, of a past event. It is this Event itself shown, given to us, as always efficient, always revealing our world, our time, our life as being at their end, and announcing the Beginning of the new life…. And the function of the three first days of Holy Week is precisely to challenge us with this ultimate meaning of Pascha and to prepare us to the understanding and acceptance of it.

1. This eschatological (which means ultimate, decisive, final) challenge is revealed, first, in the common troparion of these days:

Troparion – Tone 8 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!

Midnight is the moment when the old day comes to its end and a new day begins. It is thus the symbol of the time in which we live as Christians. For, on the one hand, the Church is still in this world, sharing in its weaknesses and tragedies. Yet, on the other hand, her true being is not of this world, for she is the Bride of Christ and her mission is to announce and to reveal the coming of the Kingdom and of the new day. Her life is a perpetual watching and expectation, a vigil pointed at the dawn of this new day. But we know how strong is still our attachment to the “old day,” to the world with its passions and sins. We know how deeply we still belong to “this world.” We have seen the light, ‘We know Christ, we have heard about the peace and joy of the new life in Him, and yet the world holds us in its slavery. This weakness, this constant betrayal of Christ, this incapacity to give the totality of our love to the only true object of love are wonderfully expressed in the exapostilarion of these three days:

“Thy Bridal Chamber I see adorned, O my Savior And I have no wedding garment that I may enter, O Giver of life, enlighten the vesture of my soul And save me.”

2. The same theme develops further in the Gospel readings of these days. First of all, the entire text of the four Gospels (up to John 13: 31) is read at the Hours (1, 3, 6 and 9th). This recapitulation shows that the Cross is the climax of the whole life and ministry of Jesus, the Key to their proper understanding. Everything in the Gospel leads to this ultimate hour of Jesus and everything is to be understood in its light. Then, each service has its special Gospel lesson :

On Monday:

At Matins: Matthew 21: 18-43 – the story of the fig tree, the symbol of the world created to bear spiritual fruits and failing in its response to God.

At the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts: Matthew 24: 3-35: the great eschatological discourse of Jesus. The signs and announcement of the End. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away….”

“When the Lord was going to His voluntary Passion, He said to His Apostles on the way: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, And the Son of Man shall be delivered up As it is written of Him. Come, therefore, and let us accompany Him, With minds purified from the pleasures of this life, And let us be crucified and die with Him, That we may live with Him, And that we may hear Him say to us: I go now, not to the earthly Jerusalem to suffer, But unto My Father and your Father And My God and your God, And I will gather you up into the heavenly Jerusalem, Into the Kingdom of Heaven….” (Monday Matins)

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Troparion
O Christ our God, thou didst before thy very Passion confirm the truth of the general Resurrection, by raising Lazarus from the dead. Wherefore we also, like the children bearing the symbols of triumph, cry out unto thee, the vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Kontakion
Seated upon the throne in heaven and upon the colt on earth, O Christ our God, thou didst accpet the praise of the Angels and the songs of the children who cried out to thee, Blessed art thou that comest to recall Adam from the dead.

St. Romanos’ Kontakion 16, on the Sunday of the Palms.

Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

John 12:1-18

Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

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A year or so ago, I came across this link on the Monachos.net website this morning: An Explanation of the Holy Week Services. A very good article. It includes the famous 1998 article of a Norwegian reporter, Niels Christian Hvidt, on the miracle of the Holy Fire. Check it out.

I also came across this meditation guide for each day of Holy Week (doc file) out of the Ukranian Orthodox Church Office of Religious Education.

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If you want to get a better grasp of the Orthodox experience of Holy Week, you can do so through the Church’s iconography.See also An Explanation of the Holy Week Services at Monachos.net.

And there is also Fr Joseph’s post explaining the liturgical significance of the days of Holy Week.

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Troparion Tone 4
Today is the beginning of our salvation/ and the manifestation of the mystery which is from eternity./ The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin,/ and Gabriel announces grace./ So with him let us also cry to the Mother of God:/ Rejoice, thou who art full of grace!/ The Lord is with thee.

Kontakion Tone 8
Queen of the Heavenly Host,/ Defender of our souls,/ we thy servants offer to thee songs of victory and thanksgiving,/ for thou, O Mother of God,/ hast delivered us from dangers./ But as thou hast invincible power,/ free us from conflicts of all kinds/ that we may cry to thee:/ Rejoice, unwedded Bride!

From the Prolog:

When the All-Holy Virgin completed the fourteenth year after her birth and was entering her fifteenth year, after having spent eleven years of living and serving in the Temple of Jerusalem, the priests informed her that, according to the Law, she could not remain in the Temple but was required to be betrothed and enter into marriage. What a great surprise to the priests was the answer of the All-Holy Virgin that she had dedicated her life to God and that she desired to remain a Virgin until death, not wanting to enter into marriage with anyone! Then, according to Divine Providence, Zacharias, the high priest and father of the Forerunner, under the inspiration of God, and in agreement with the other priests, gathered twelve unwed men from the Tribe of David to betroth the Virgin Mary to one of them to preserve her virginity and to care for her. She was betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth who was her kinsman. In the house of Joseph, the All-Holy Virgin continued to live as she did in the Temple of Solomon, occupying her time in the reading of Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in Godly-thoughts, in fasting and in handiwork. She rarely went anywhere outside the house nor was she interested in worldly things and events. She spoke very little to anyone, if at all, and never without special need. More frequently she communicated with both of Joseph’s daughters. When the fullness of time had come, as prophesied by Daniel the Prophet, and when God was pleased to fulfill His promise to the banished Adam and to the Prophets, the great Archangel Gabriel appeared in the chamber of the All-Holy Virgin and, as some priestly writers wrote, precisely at that same moment when she held open the book of the Prophet Isaiah and was contemplating his great prophecy: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son!” (Isaiah 7:13). Gabriel appeared in all of his angelic brightness and saluted her: “Rejoice, highly favored one! The Lord is with you” (St. Luke 1:28), and the rest in order as it is written in the Gospel of the saintly Luke. With this angelic annunciation and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin, the salvation of mankind and restoration of all creation began. The history of the New Testament was opened by the words of the Archangel Gabriel: “Rejoice, highly favored one” This is to imply that the New Testament was to signify joy to mankind and to all created things. It is from this that the Annunciation is considered not only a great feast, but a joyful feast as well.

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Troparion Tone 5
Enlightened by the grace of the Cross,/ thou wast seen to be a bright light of repentance,/ dispelling the darkness of passions, O all holy one./ thou didst appear as an angel in the flesh/ to holy Zosimas in the wilderness./ Intercede with Christ for us, O Mary our righteous Mother.

Kontakion Tone 3
Thou who wast once obsessed with fornication/ by repentance art now the Bride of Christ./ Thou didst lovingly imitate the life of the Angels/ and annihilate demonic hosts by the Cross;/ thou art now a Bride in the Kingdom of heaven, O most chaste Mary.

Another Kontakion Tone 4
Having escaped the fog of sin,/ and having illumined thy heart with the light of penitence,/ 0 glorious one,/ thou didst come to Christ and didst offer to Him/ His immaculate and holy Mother as a merciful intercessor./ Hence thou hast found remission for transgressions,/ and with the Angels thou ever rejoicest.

The Life of Our Holy Mother, St Mary of Egypt:

“It is good to hide the secret of a king, but it is glorious to reveal and preach the works of God” (Tobit 12:7) So said the Archangel Raphael to Tobit when he performed the wonderful healing of his blindness. Actually, not to keep the secret of a king is perilous and a terrible risk, but to be silent about the works of God is a great loss for the soul. And I (says St. Saphronius), in writing the life of St. Mary of Egypt, am afraid to hide the works of God by silence. Remembering the misfortune threatened to the servant who hid his God-given talent in the earth (Mat. 25:18-25), I am bound to pass on the holy account that has reached me. And let no one think (continues St. Saphronius) that I have had the audacity to write untruth or doubt this great marvel –may I never lie about holy things! If there do happen to be people who, after reading this record, do not believe it, may the Lord have mercy on them because, reflecting on the weakness of human nature, they consider impossible these wonderful things accomplished by holy people. But now we must begin to tell this most amazing story, which has taken place in our generation.
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Troparion of St Patrick Tone 4
Most glorious art Thou, Christ our God/ Who didst establish our Father Patrick/ as the Enlightener of the Irish and a torch-bearer on earth,/ and through him didst guide many to the true Faith./ Most Compassionate One, glory to Thee.

Apolytikion of St Patrick Tone 3
O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.

Kontakion of St Patrick Tone 4
The Master revealed thee as a skilful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who hounour thy memory.

The Confessio of St. Patrick; same translation here – and in .pdf here (the Latin text)

St. Patrick’s Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (the Latin text)

On St. Patrick and the Shamrock


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