Holy Monday Evening
The Service of the Bridegroom
Introduction to Holy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
The first part of Holy Week presents us with an array of themes based chiefly on the last day's of Jesus' earthly life. "The story of the Passion, as told and recorded by the Evangelists, is preceded by a series of incidents located in Jerusalem and a collection of parables, sayings and discourses centered on Jesus' divine sonship, the Kingdom of God, the Parousia, and Jesus' castigation of the hypocrisy and dark motives of the religious leaders."
The Orthros Services of Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is called the Service of the Bridegroom, and gets its name from the central figure in the well-known parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25.1-13). "The title Bridegroom suggests the intimacy of love. It is not without significance that the Kingdom of God is compared to a bridal feast and a bridal chamber. The Christ of the Passion is the Divine Bridegroom of the Church. The imagery connotes the final union of the Lover and the beloved. The title Bridegroom also suggest the Parousia.
Each day of Holy Week has its own particular theme. The theme of Monday (celebrated in anticipation on Palm Sunday evening) is that of the barren fig tree (Matthew 21: 18-20) which yields no fruit and is condemned. On Tuesday (celebrated Monday evening) the theme is on the vigilance of the wise virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13) who, unlike their foolish sisters, were ready when the Lord came to them. On Wednesday (celebrated Tuesday evening) the focus is on the sinful woman (Matthew 26: 6-13) who repents. Great emphasis is made in the liturgical services to compare the woman, a sinful harlot who is saved, to Judas, a chosen apostle who is lost. The one gives her wealth to Christ and kisses his feet; the other betrays Christ for money with a kiss.
Holy Tuesday (Celebrated on Holy Monday Evening)
This greatest of Tuesdays brings to mind ten virgins, bearing the victory of the just Master.
O bridegroom Christ, count us among the prudent maidens, and include us in Your chosen flock, showing mercy on us. Amen.
I have succumbed to spiritual torpor, O bridegroom Christ, and hold no lamp alight with virtue. I am like the foolish virgins, wandering about when it was time to act. Master, do not seal against me the wellsprings of Your pity; but rouse me to shake off the gloom of sleep, and lead me with the prudent maids into Your bridal chamber. Here the clear song of the revelers can be heard, singing ceaselessly, “Lord, glory to You!”
Soul, you have heard the sentence pronounced on him who hid his talent, so do not bury God’s word. Rather, proclaim His wonders, so that abounding in grace, you may enter into the joy of your Lord.
Jesus, when You come in glory with angelic hosts, and sit on the Judgement Seat, do not separate me, Good Shepherd. You know the ways of those on the right; those on the left are perverted. Hardened though I am in sin, do not condemn me to perish with the goats, but numbering me among the sheep at Your right hand, save me in Your love.
Bridegroom, comeliest of all men, You have invited us into Your spiritual wedding feast. Through sharing in Your sufferings, strip away the tattered raiment of my sins and, clothing me in the splendor of Your beauty, make me a radiant guest of Your kingdom as loving God.
On Great Tuesday the Church calls to remembrance tow parables, which are related to the Second Coming. The one is the parable of the Ten Virgins (Mt 25.1-3); the other the parable of the Talents (Mt 25.14-30). These parables point to the inevitability of the Parousia and deal with such subjects as spiritual vigilance, stewardship, accountability and judgement.
From these parables we learn at least two basic things. First, Judgement Day will be like the situation in which the bridesmaids (or virgins) of the parable found themselves: some ready for it, some not ready. The time one decides for God is now and not at some undefined point in the future.
The tragedy of the closed door is that individuals close it, not God. The exclusion from the marriage feast, the kingdom is of our own making. Second, we are reminded that watchfulness and readiness do not mean a wearisome, spiritless performance of formal and empty obligations. Most certainly it does not mean inactivity and slothfulness. Watchfulness signifies inner stability, soberness, tranquility and joy. Watchfulness is the deep personal resolve to find and do the will of God, embrace every commandment and every virtue, and guard the intellect and heart from evil thoughts and actions. Watchfulness is the intense love of God.
Rev. Father Peter J. Orfanakos, Parish Priest
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