Holy Week continued this evening at 6:30 with the Bridegroom Matins for Holy Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday, even though its still Monday night – in fact, one parishioner noted that it wasn’t even dark yet! Its a curious thing how time gets turned a bit upside down during Orthodox Holy Week – if you get into the rhythm of it, by the end of the week there’s a really poignant sense of the whole week being a bit outside of time – which, I think, is by design.
Bridegroom Matins contains one of those hymns in the Church that you really start to look forward each year – it hearkens to the need to be watchful – over our hearts, and mindful of the great gifts we’ve been given – its a reminder to stay awake spiritually and not be lulled to sleep by a lesser existence of only satisfying fleshly desires while disregarding the eternal, the abundant life –
Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight,
And blessed is that 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, art Thou, O our God,
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.
The Gospel reading for Matins of Holy Tuesday includes some of Christ’s harshest words – Matthew 22:15-23:39 – take a read of that section – Jesus has just been challenged by some of the Pharisees and Saduccees – they are trying to trip Him up in His words, or discredit Him through technical theological questions. Our Lord answers them clearly, but then He turns and explains to the people (I’m guessing some of those who were challenging Him were still hanging around) about the hypocrisy of “those who sit in Moses’ seat” – this is the “brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs” section – strong words. But we have to ask the question – why does He speak in this manner? We see Our Lord deal gently with many other people in the Gospel – the woman caught in adultery, for example – among others — He saves His harshest words for those who should know better – the ones who have the scriptures – who have been entrusted with being examples for the people – they have taken the gift they’ve been given, though, and twisted it into a power play – and worse, an occasion to oppress the weak among them.
Consider also the timing of this – not only in the cycle of Holy Week, but also in the chronology of the scriptures – Judas will soon be plotting with the scribes and pharisees in order to betray Jesus. Our Lord, in His mercy, speaks harsh words – strong medicine, if you will, so that, perhaps, some of those among the soon to be conspirators will repent of their sinful thoughts and actions. You see, Jesus is so loving and merciful, that even to the end, as we will see in a few days, He wishes mercy and forgiveness, even for those who betray and kill Him. This is the Lord we serve as Christians – who turns everything around, who replaces revenge with a better way – forgiveness – this is why we have hope as Christians – this is the God we serve.
Next up – Hours and Gospel, tomorrow (Tuesday, yes, actually Tuesday this time) at 7am. Goodnight – and may the peace of the Lord be with you!