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The First Three Days of Holy Week - Part 1

April 22, 2013 Length: 37:09

In a 6 part reflection, Fr. Tom Hopko examines the first three days of Holy Week and the significance of the scripture and verses as we prepare for Great and Holy Pascha. In this first episode, he gives an overview of the 3 days and the services we will be a part of.

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Transcript Transcript

In our Eastern Orthodox tradition, as probably most of the listeners to Ancient Faith Radio know, the 40 days of the Great Lenten season in the Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, ends on the day before the Saturday on which the Church celebrates the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the next Sunday, which celebrates the triumphal entry of the Lord into the city of Jerusalem, Palm Sunday. So we have the 40 days of Great Lent, and then we have the celebration of Lazarus Saturday, the raising of Lazarus, the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem. And then on Palm Sunday evening, we actually enter into what the service books call the Great and Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion.

This particular week, as I mentioned, it begins already with the vespers on the evening of Palm Sunday, and then it proceeds on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, with the services that are popularly called the Bridegroom services, or the services of going up with the Lord to Jerusalem for his Passion, and then entering into the very end of the ages that Christ accomplishes in his death on the Cross, and then entering into the new age of the coming age of God’s kingdom in the Resurrection of Christ.

Like the Western Church, the Thursday of the Great and Holy Week is dedicated to the celebration of the Mystical Supper of the Lord, the so-called “Last Supper” of Christ with his disciples and the events of that Supper. And then you have Great and Holy Friday, which is the day of the Lord’s arrest and Passion and suffering, and then his crucifixion. Then on Saturday, the Great and Holy Sabbath, when the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, lies dead in the tomb, fulfilling all God’s work, the blessed Sabbath when God rests from all his work in the death of Christ. And then you have the Great Paschal Vigil on Great and Holy Saturday, with the many readings of the Old Testament and the St. Basil Liturgy, and then there’s the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection itself on the feast of holy Pascha.

But what we want to look at now are the first three days of the Great and Holy Week, just to take a look at what is there, what are the services like, what are the themes that are in them and developed in them. And there are several themes that are developed on the services of Great and Holy Monday, Great and Holy Tuesday, and Great and Holy Wednesday: the first three days of the Holy Week. We enter into those days already on Sunday night, and in most parish churches the matins of Great and Holy Monday would be celebrated on Sunday evening or Sunday night. Then the next day, on Monday, you would have the vesperal Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts during the day, sometimes in late morning, some churches in the early afternoon.

And then in the evening you move into the matins of the next day, so on Sunday night you’d have the matins of Monday, Monday night the matins of Tuesday, and Tuesday night the matins of Wednesday. And then on each of those days, this celebration of the penitential vesperal Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts with the reading of the holy gospel at both of these services. So you have the gospel read at the matins and the gospel read at the vesperal Presanctified Liturgy.

Just one word about these gospels: The gospels on these three days are dedicated to the end of the ages, the apocalyptic passages from Matthew, the judgment that’s going to happen when the Christ appears in glory with all of his angels. It speaks about the end. Actually in those services, the end of all things is kind of conflated in these gospel readings and in the hymnology of these days of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, because, first of all, it’s the end of Christ’s life on earth, it’s the end of the messianic ministry of Jesus, it’s the fulfillment of all things when Christ is crucified on the cross. When the Lord Christ says, “It is accomplished,” when he dies on the cross, then the end of the ages has come upon us, as the Apostle Paul writes in his letters. Really, there’s nothing more to expect in human history after the death of Christ. The only thing that we can expect is the second coming of the Lord in glory. So this end of Christ by being crucified and then raised on the earth, it immediately takes us into the coming of Christ at the end of the ages.

As one of the hymns will say—or several of them will say—“We go up with the Lord to Jerusalem for him to suffer his passion, and then we go up with him into the heavenly Jerusalem,” the Jerusalem, the real Jerusalem, which is our mother, as St. Paul said to Galatians, there to enter into the kingdom of God. And when that second coming of Christ’s comes, the parousia with the coming of God’s kingdom, it is also a time of our judgment. So you have the crucifixion of Christ, which is the judgment of the world and our own judgment. Then, with the crucifixion of Christ as a kind of final act of the messianic ministry, you have also mentioned in the gospel readings… They’re all from Matthew except on one morning there, the last morning, Wednesday morning, [when] you have it from the Gospel of St. John; they’re from Matthew, the chapters 21-26 are read at those services. If you read those, they’re all about the parables of the end of the ages, the end of the world, how things are going to be, and they’re connected also with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.

In addition to the end of Christ’s ministry being celebrated on earth, you have the end of Jerusalem, the end of the earthly Jerusalem, which of course we know that that’s what happened after Christ was crucified and glorified: Jerusalem was destroyed, never to be rebuilt again. The temple was destroyed also, never to be rebuilt again. It was the end of that, of what we Christians call the old covenant. It came to an end, and now we have everything made new. We have the new creation in Christ, the new heaven, the new earth, the new priesthood, the new Jerusalem, the new song. All things are made new in the resurrection of Christ, and all that is before that is coming to an end.

As Jesus said, all things would be fulfilled, and they would not die until they’ve seen the Lord’s kingdom coming in power. Well, Peter, James, and John did see the Lord’s kingdom coming in power on the mount of the Transfiguration, and then the apostles with the early Christian disciples also saw the glory of God’s kingdom coming in their vision of the risen Christ, the appearance of the risen Christ to them. Then the Christian task until the end of the world and the second coming of Christ is to bear witness to the Crucified One as the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the whole world, the Judge of heaven and earth, the King of God’s coming kingdom. All these things are in these services of the first three days and the gospel readings at these services, which tell about all of these things.

You have the death of Christ, you have the end of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, and then what’s woven into that theme of the end is also the end of our own human lives: that we human beings have to live toward the end of our life, that we’re going to die. Those gospel readings speak about Christ’s coming in the middle of the night, and we have to be ready to meet him. Two men are working; one is taken, one is left. Two women are in bed; one is taken, one is left. You have to watch. You have to pray. You know not when the Lord is coming. And that coming of the Lord has to do with our personal death, because the Lord is coming to each one of us at the end of our earthly life, when we die, and then that is connected with the end of the whole human history: the end of the world, the end of this age, when Christ comes again in glory to establish in power God’s kingdom throughout the whole of creation.

You have these ends coming together: the end of Christ’s ministry, the end of the old covenant, the end of Jerusalem and the temple. We have our end together with him, our dying together with him. Our whole life has to be a preparation to die with him, that we can be raised with him; to suffer with him, that we can be glorified with him. And then there’s the end of the world as a whole, of history as a whole. These are all kind of, at these services, they’re all contemplated and reflected upon and sung about in the hymnology, taken up from the gospel readings in these services of these first three days of the Great and Holy Week.

That ending, that ending of the Great and Holy Week, it’s connected in the services, or it’s contemplated in the services, with the imagery of the Bridegroom who comes in the middle of the night. This Bridegroom is Christ, and we know that one of the first messianic titles of Jesus in Scripture is the Bridegroom. It’s already in the second chapter of Mark, it’s in the first chapter of John, that Jesus is the Bridegroom. The Bridegroom comes for his created bride. He comes to take his beloved body and bride into the house of his Father to live forever. Then you have this parable of the virgins and the bridal chamber, that the coming of Christ is likened to virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come and to have their oil lamps ready and to enter into the bridal chamber with the bridegroom into this union of love with God, which is symbolized by the Bridegroom and the bride, and the church is the bride of Christ.

You have the Bridegroom imagery. And by the way, it’s important always to remember that in the Scriptures—the Law, the Psalms, the Prophets: the old covenant Scriptures of Israel—the main imagery for the relationship of God and creation; Yahweh, the Lord, and the people of Israel, his chosen people; and Christ and the Church, the new chosen people among the Jews and the Gentiles—the imagery by far that is most pervasive is the imagery of marriage, of a nuptual communion, a union, becoming one flesh and one body and one spirit, with God himself in the flesh and body and spirit of Jesus Christ himself, the divine Bridegroom. So you have the imagery of the Bridegroom and the bride and the bridal chamber that’s connected with the end, because the Bridegroom comes at the end, in the middle of the night.

Then there are a couple of other images that are repeated again and again through these days. One has to do with the fig tree and the fruit that the fig tree has to bring forth, and how there is this fig tree that only has leaves and has no fruit, and it’s got to bear fruit. Then you have the parables in the gospels about bearing fruit. So when the Lord comes, that we have the fruit to offer to him, as it says in the parables: when he returns, he’s going to harvest his fruit, and we have to produce that fruit, what St. John the Baptist called the fruit worthy of repentance, or St. Paul called the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love and peace and joy and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and fidelity and self-control. You have the imagery of the fig tree and the fruit.

Then you have the imagery also of Joseph, the son of Jacob, who [was] sold into exile into Egypt by his brothers. He’s betrayed. He’s presented as if he’s dead. He’s put into a pit. Animal’s blood is put on his beautiful robe and taken back to the father. The one who is the leader of this is the man named Judah, which is Judas in the story. But then he turns out to be alive, and he’s the king, and he saves the people. He’s an image of Christ. You have that imagery.

Then you have the imagery of the fallen woman, the harlot, and the fallen apostle, Judas. Especially the service of Wednesday, it focuses almost entirely on the comparison and contrast between the fallen woman and Judas. Then there’s a conflation also between the fallen woman in the gospel of Luke and the woman who washes Jesus’ feet and anoints him for his burial in Matthew, Mark, and in John. We want to comment on those things.

Before getting into this in a little bit greater detail, we want to begin by showing how in these services of these days, the hymns and the songs which are sung begin by our invitation to go with the Christ and to enter with him into his Passion. For example, you have the hymns that go like this, especially in the first days:

Today the holy Passion shines forth upon the world with the light of salvation, for Christ in his love hastens to his sufferings. He who holds all things in the hollow of his hand consents to be hung upon the Tree, that he may save mankind.

Then you have the hymns that say the same thing:

O come, all ye faithful, to the saving Passion of Christ our God. Let us glorify his ineffable forbearance, that in his tender mercy he may also raise us up, who have been slain by sin, for he is good and he is the Lover of mankind.

Or again:

As the Lord went 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 betrayed as it is written of him.” Come, then, and let us also journey with him, purified in mind. Let us be crucified with him and die for his sake to the pleasures of this life, that we may also live with him and hear him say, “No longer to I ascend to the earthly Jerusalem to suffer, but I ascend to my Father and to your Father, and to my God and to your God, and I shall raise you up to this Jerusalem on high in the kingdom of heaven.”

So you have this invitation and this movement from the celebration of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, then into his own Passion. There’s a beautiful hymn that goes like this:

Passing from one divine feast to another, from the feast of palms and branches, let us now make haste, ye faithful, to the solemn and saving celebration of Christ’s Passion. Let us behold him undergoing voluntary suffering for our sake, and let us sing to him with thanksgiving a fitting hymn: “O fountain of tender mercy and haven of salvation, O Lord, glory to thee.”

We are invited to enter with Christ and to go with him into his Passion, that we can enter with him into his kingdom of heaven. We are invited to go with him, that we can die with him, that we could participate in his own death and then be taken up into his kingdom.

It comes to mind here that the Apostle Paul said in the letter to the Colossians—St. Paul said about himself—he said: “In my affliction and my suffering, I fulfill what is lacking in the suffering of Christ for the sake of the Church which is his body.” And I once asked my professor of theology, “What could possibly be lacking in the Passion of Christ? Christ is the Son of God, he is divine, he takes on humanity, he becomes sin, he becomes a curse, he dies for us, he becomes a corpse—what can be added to that to save and redeem the world?” My beloved teacher told me, “Nothing can be added except but one thing.” And I said, “What’s that?” And he said, “Our co-suffering with him. Our entrance into that Passion with him.” Because if he suffers his Passion for us, then we have to enter into it with him. Otherwise, it not only does not profit us, it does not benefit us, but it actually condemns us; it actually is a judgment upon us, that we will answer for it.

This is how those three days and the whole of Holy Week begin on Great and Holy Monday, and then it’s picked up on Tuesday and Wednesday until we finally complete those first three days by the celebration of the Mystical Supper and then the Passion of Christ on the cross.

Very interesting to note is that at these matins services that are called the Bridegroom services, each of them begin—and even Wednesday night begins with the Alleluias—it begins with the singing of this particular hymn, very well-known among Orthodox Christians, and people just love it who know these services. It goes like this. After the reading of the six psalms of the beginning of matins—and every day six psalms are read to begin matins in the Orthodox Church: Psalm 3, 38, 63, 88, 103, and 143, if you can go back and listen to that again if you want to know what those psalms are—but the six psalms are read, and then the great litany is chanted like at all matins and vespers and Divine Liturgy, and then you have the entrance into the hymnology, the gospel readings of these services; you have the entrance into it with a very solemn singing of Alleluia. It’s even called an alleluaria in the service book, and it’s said to be sung “slowly and solemnly, with appointed verses.” Each of these matins services begin with the slow and solemn singing of Alleluia.

Actually, that’s how matins begins every day during Great Lent, with the singing of the Alleluia. The usual thing that begins matins is our lines from Psalm 118:

The Lord is God. He has revealed himself to us. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good. His mercy endures forever. All nations compass me round about, but in the name of the Lord I withstood them. I shall not die; I shall live, but recount the deeds of the Lord. The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

That’s the way normal matins begins every matins of the Church year—except on the weekdays of Great Lent and on these first days of Holy Week. Instead of “God is the Lord” or “The Lord is God and has revealed himself to us, has shined upon us,” we sing a solemn Alleluia. We have to note here how different that is from the West, because in the Western Church’s piety, the 40 days of Lent go right up to Easter Sunday, whereas in our Church, in the East, they go up to the eve of Lazarus Saturday, and then Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday have their own special feast, and then you have the Great and Holy Week. So our preparation is 49 days, not 40. Lent is 40, then Lazarus Saturday [and] Palm Sunday, then the Great and Holy Week. That’s one difference.

Another difference is that in the Western churches, “Alleluia” is not sung during Great Lent. Actually, the Paschal Vigil which announces the Lord’s Resurrection in the Western traditions, those churches in the West of more Catholic traditions, like Roman Catholic and high Anglican and perhaps some Lutherans—I don’t know—but they announce the Resurrection of Christ by a very solemn singing of “Alleluia.” The faithful have not heard the Alleluia for the 40 days of Lent, and then the proclamation of the Alleluia, the Lord is risen, Christ is risen, is how the very Easter celebration of the Resurrection of Christ begins.

That’s really different, because in the Eastern tradition, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Alleluias are not only retained during Lent and during Holy Week, but they are multiplied; they are made more apparent; they are done with greater solemnity and majesty, because this whole period of time is to glorify God. “Alleluia” means “glory to God, praise the Lord, glory.” And that’s what we emphasize in Lent and Holy Week, this glorification of God through his condescension through the Christ to the Cross and to Sheol and to death and to the destruction of death and to the raising of the dead. So the Alleluias are flaunted.

At these matins services, after the six matinal psalms and the great litany, you have the chanting beginning, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” The priest or the deacon chants, and then it’s sung back by the congregation, by the people, sometimes in very fancy singing by the cantors and the choirs: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” And then there are verses that intersperse like a refrained Alleluia. So you have: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” And then you have the first verse: “In the night season my soul rises early unto thee, O Lord, for your commandments are a light upon the earth.” And then they sing: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” Then what is said is: “Learn righteousness, you who dwell upon the earth.” “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” Then it says, “Jealousy shall seize upon an untaught people.” Or another translation would be: “Anger shall fall upon those who have not corrected themselves.” “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.” Then the final verse is: “Render evils unto them, O Lord; render evils unto them, even unto the glorious (or the proud ones) of this earth.” Then you have: “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia” again.

Those verses with this solemn Alleluia that begins these services on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and in another way the same verses are used even on Thursday (with other hymns, however), we have to notice that those verses are taken from the Prophet Isaiah. The verses are taken from the Prophet Isaiah. They’re taken from the 26th chapter of Isaiah. And by the way, it’s the 26th both in the Septuagint translation—that’s the one we use in church, the Jewish translation into Greek, before Christ, that we use in church—and it’s also the 26th chapter in the Hebrew Bible. The lines in this 26th chapter of the canticle of Isaiah, they’re a little bit different in the two versions, and that’s why sometimes if you go to churches you’ll hear different translations of these lines, but basically they’re the same. The first is identical and the last is identical; the second and the third are a little bit different, but in any case, it’s from the canticle of Isaiah.

As we’ve said before, when you have verses from a canticle or a psalm in the Bible, used at the liturgy, the faithful people are expected to know where it comes from and to know what the context is, what is the entire context, so we can then understand why these verses would be used and how they’re to be understood.

Today I would just like to complete our first little reflection here by reflecting on that canticle of Isaiah, which provides the verses for the solemn singing of Alleluia at the beginning of these Bridegroom matins services. This is the reason; it seems that this is the reason, because once you read the entire canticle, you can see what the reason is. Just before this canticle is given in the prophecy of Isaiah, in the end of the 25th chapter, it tells us how the Lord of hosts is going to act to save the world and how he’s going to deliver all of the promises to the Gentiles and that when death prevails and has swallowed them up,

God will again wipe away every tear from every face and God will take away the disgrace of his people from all the earth, and the mouth of the Lord has spoken it, and it will be said in that day: Behold, this is our God, in whom we hoped and rejoiced exceedingly, and we shall be glad in his salvation, for on this mountain, God will give them rest, and the Moabite shall be trampled down, the threshing floor with wagons.

And then it says:

And God will spread forth his hand so as to humble man, to destroy him and humble his arrogance, the arrogance in which he laid his hands, the height of your refuge he will humble and bring it down to earth.

But he does all of that for the sake of salvation, for the sake of bringing them into his kingdom. And then it says: “And on that day,” which Christians interpret as the day of the Christ, the day of the Messiah, the day of Resurrection, “this song will be sung in the land of Judah.” And for us, that means in the Church of Christ. And this is how the canticle goes in the translation of the Septuagint Scripture in the Orthodox Study Bible. It goes like this:

Behold, we have a strong city, and God the Lord will make our salvation its surrounding wall. Open the gates; let the people enter who keep righteousness and guard the truth and who lay hold of the truth and keep peace, because they hope forever in you, O Lord, the great and eternal God, who humbles and brings down those who dwell on high. The strong cities you will cast down; you will bring them down to the ground. But the feet of the gentle and the humble shall tread them underfoot. The way of the godly is straight, and the way of the godly is prepared. For the way of the Lord is judgment. We hope in your name, and in the remembrance of you, which our soul desires at night.

And then you have:

My spirit rises early in the morning to you, O God, for your commands are a light upon the earth.

And that’s the verse, the first verse that’s sung with the solemn Alleluia at each of these services. Then it continues:

The ungodly man ceases. He will not learn righteousness on the earth. He will not do the truth. Let the ungodly man be taken away, that he may not see the glory of the Lord. O Lord, your arm is exalted, but they did not know it. But when they knew it, they shall be ashamed, for jealousy will seize an untaught people, and fire will devour the adversaries.

In that particular section, you have two of the verses that are learned: “Not learn righteousness, you who dwell upon the earth” and “Jealousy will seize an untaught people,” sometimes translated, by the way, as “Anger shall fall upon the people who have not corrected themselves, who have not followed the teaching.” And then this canticle continues:

O Lord our God, grant us peace. For you render everything to us. O Lord our God, possess us. O Lord, we know no other beside you. WE name your name. The dead will not see life, neither will physicians raise them.

And in the Hebrew Bible, that’s a little bit different. That line is: “The dead shall live, and their bodies shall rise.” It’s a little bit different expression. But then it continues:

Therefore you brought evils upon them and destroyed them and took away every male of theirs. Bring more evils on them, O Lord; bring more evils upon them, even on the glorious of the earth.

And that’s the last verse that’s sung with the solemn Alleluia, and I’ll comment on that in a minute, but let’s finish the canticle.

O Lord, I remembered you in my hard circumstances; your chastening to us was a small affliction. As a woman with child is in pain and cries out in her pangs, when she draws near the time of her delivery, so we became your beloved because of your fear, O Lord. We have been with child; we have been in pain. We have given birth; we brought forth the spirit of your salvation on the earth, but the inhabitants of this world shall fall. The dead shall rise up, and those in the tombs shall arise. Those in the tombs shall be glad, and your dew is a healing for them. But the land of the ungodly shall come to an end.

Come, my people: enter your closets and shut your doors. Hide yourself for a very short while until the anger of the Lord is past. For behold, the Lord is bringing wrath from his holy place upon the inhabitants of the earth, and the earth will uncover its blood and will not cover its slain.

So that’s the canticle of Isaiah, and that’s what we sing with the Alleluia, the verses when we begin these services.

Just to comment on that last verse, because it very often scandalizes people who hear it. They hear the deacon with his big voice, or the priest if there’s no deacon, actually proclaiming from before the royal doors in the church service, “Render evils unto them, O Lord! Render evils unto them, even unto the proud ones of this earth!” And then we sing, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!” Now, what is going on there? Well, the answer is given in the canticle itself, because in the canticle you have the line, particularly in the Hebrew Scripture, that says, “If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness. In the land of uprightness, he deals perversely, and he does not see the majesty of the Lord.” That’s what it says.

That very same kind of teaching is found in the Greek translation, where it says, “The ungodly man ceases. He will not learn righteousness on the earth. He will not do the truth. Let the ungodly man be taken away, that he may not see the glory of the Lord.” But the claim is, the meaning there is, that when people are wicked and ungodly and don’t give themselves over to God and his commandments, the only thing that may possibly save them is if the Lord would send evils upon them, because the teaching would be—and this, I think, would be the interpretation of the saints and our whole tradition—that if God shows favor to evil people, they don’t know that it’s from God; they don’t think that it’s from God; it won’t do any good; they won’t say, “Oh, my life is so blessed. I’d better thank God.” No, they’ll say, “Oh, my life is blessed because I am a good guy and I work hard, or maybe I’m a crook or whatever, and I got because it’s mine and I want it and I’ll develop it…”

And so the only thing that might save such a person are calamities, and we know that through the whole Bible God was using calamities, calamities on top of calamities. He even called Nebuchadnezzar his servant. He called Cyrus his servant, his christ, his anointed. He destroyed Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. They had to build it up again. Then after the Christ came, the city was destroyed, never to be built up again. Now, if that doesn’t change wicked people, what will? So the claim of the Isaiah prophecy is: the only thing that might work for sinful people is to undergo calamities, to lose their wealth, to lose their country, to have to deal with terror, to have to deal with invasion, to have to deal with death and tragedy. Maybe that will turn people to the Lord.

But we know very well that it doesn’t always work, because, as the Prophet says, “When favor is shown to the wicked, it does not produce repentance; it does not make them change,” because they don’t even realize that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming from the Father of lights, as it says in the letter of James in the New Testament. That we have nothing that’s not been given to us—that’s the whole teaching of the entire Scripture. That’s the whole experience of God’s people from Abraham down to this very day. So this canticle provides the verses for the Alleluia that takes us into this Great and Holy Week of the Lord’s Passion.

We even know that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It was just celebrated two days before the Great and Holy Week is being celebrated. Now, did it convert the people who hated Jesus, who feared him, who were jealous of him? Did it work, to change them? No, it didn’t. The leaders of the people saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead and enter into Jerusalem, and then they took counsel how to kill him! They had to get rid of him. They didn’t want him. Actually his goodness and his kindness and all his miracles and all the good things that he did right in their presence—and the ultimate miracle is raising the dead—it actually triggered the very betrayal by Judas; it triggered the arrest of Jesus and his mocked up trial, his being beaten and blasphemed and ridiculed and scorned and whipped and being nailed to the cross. So he undertook that for our salvation, and he undertook it voluntarily.

So the benediction at each of these services, at the very end of each one in the whole week is:

When the Lord is going to his voluntary passion and death, Christ our true God, who is going to his voluntary passion and death, for us human beings and for our salvation.

So that Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia is how it starts the services, the first three days of Great and Holy Week, and it’s carried through on Thursday as well), but then on Friday we go back again to “The Lord is God and has revealed himself. I shall not die but live. The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” So we begin with the Alleluia and the canticle of Isaiah, our attention directed in that direction, and then we sing the main troparion of these days, the main hymn of these days: “Behold, the Bridegroom is coming at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom he shall find watching.”

We will comment in the next podcast about Christ the Bridegroom, coming in the middle of the night, and the bridal chamber that we are invited to enter in together with him.


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