Great and Holy Tuesday (2019)

Holy Tuesday: The Procession of the Wise Virgins

30917710458_8ae1f75175_nThe second wedding parable from the Gospel is that of the Wise Virgins ( Matthew 25:1-13). Here the emphasis is not put on the laying aside of bad dispositions, but rather on the positive preparation for coming to the marriage-feast. Applied to the sacraments, the parable points out the dispositions necessary to take part in the Eucharistic banquet; and liturgically, the procession of virgins going to meet the Bridegroom with their lighted lamps reminds us of the procession during the paschal night in which the newly-baptized, carrying their lighted candles in their hands, were led from the baptistry to the church where they were to take part in the Eucharistic banquet. This double aspect is recalled by St. Cyril, when, at the beginning of the Procatechesis, he presents the process of initiation as a whole: “You carry in your hands the lamps of the wedding procession, these lamps which are the desire of heavenly blessings, the firm resolution and the hope which accompanies it” (XXXIII, 333). The eschatalogical waiting signified by the lamps of the wise virgins is applied to the waiting for baptism initiation which is an anticipation of the Parousia and a meeting of the soul with Christ the Bridegroom.

12228541873_b6afd22a40_nThis connection between the procession of the paschal night and of the wedding parable is made explicitly by Gregory Nazianzen: “The station that you will make, just after Baptism, before the great throne, is the prefiguring of future glory. The chant of the Psalms with which you will be received is the prelude to the Psalmody of heaven. The lamps that you will light are the sacrament (mysterion) of the resplendent procession of heaven with which we will go before the Bridegroom, souls virginal and resplendent, with the burning lamps of faith. Let us not allow ourselves by negligence to become drowsy, so as to let Him for Whom we are waiting go by us when He comes unexpectedly, and let us not remain without sustenance and without oil, for fear of being excluded from the bridal chamber. There is no room there for the man who is proud and negligent, nor for him who is clad in a stained garment and not in the wedding-robe” (XXXVI, 426 B-C).

This passage shows us that the baptismal procession is a figure of the procession of the elect at the time of the Parousia. Or, better still, this procession is the sacrament, the visible sign of the heavenly liturgy. (Jean Danielou, The Bible and the Liturgy, pp. 218-219)

While Holy Week makes us think about events on earth, what is being opened to us is Paradise, Heaven, the Kingdom of God!  The Liturgical services are endeavoring to help us experience what we sing at Pascha: “For from death to life and from earth to Heaven has Christ our God led us as we sing the song of victory: Christ is risen from the dead!

Holy Monday (2019)

Holy Monday

3754756949_e22514974b_nA theme of the first several days of Holy Week is the coming of Christ, the Bridegroom who comes to claim His wife, the Church.  The imagery is taken from Christ’s Parable in Matthew 25:1-13 in which the Bridegroom comes at midnight rather than at an expected hour, and we are all called to be ready to join Him – to be vigilant and watchful until He comes. The imagery of God’s marriage to Israel from the Old Testament caused the early Church to interpret Christ’s wedding parables to be about us and our relationship to Christ.

The synoptics make clear that God’s reign comes into history through human response; it is not a theophany that reorders the world by sovereign power. The parables about the wedding banquet communicate the indispensable necessity of responding to the invitation: if the invited guests fail to respond there will be no banquet. The king who wants the celebration will be frustrated if no one shows up (see Matt. 22:1-10). God’s mercy and justice are extended into the world through human response and witness to this radical invitation. Unless it is responded to, there is no gracious relation initiated: God does not reign over us unless we agree to let it happen. Mark relates how unbelief can frustrate the power of God. When Jesus returns to Nazareth, “he could do no deed of power there except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. He was amazed at their unbelief” (6:5-6). He wanted the world according to God; they preferred it the way it was, and they got their wish. (William C. Spohn, Go and Do Likewise, pp. 84-85)


Holy Week gives us time to think about our response to God’s invitation to follow Christ to the Kingdom.  God has prepared a banquet for us, but we have to be willing to attend, which means we must cooperate with God.  Salvation isn’t all on God, we have to accept God’s invitation and choose to celebrate the wedding feast. In the wedding feast parable (Matthew 22:1-14), we have to put a wedding garment on, this is our part of the process.   St. John Chrysostom writes:

But you have been invited to a spiritual wedding, and a royal banquet; consider then, what sort of wedding garment you should buy. On the other hand, there is no need for you to buy it, because he who has anointed you cannot offer your poverty as an excuse. Guard, then, the garment you have received; if you ruin it you will not be able to borrow another. There is no place where this kind of garment is for sale. (What the Church Fathers Say Aboutp. 23)


The days of Holy Week invite us to consider our relationship to Christ and what we are willing to invest in this relationship.  Are we willing to live for Christ? It is not an easy question for it means losing one’s life. The references to the wedding garment remind us that we have a role to play in the process.  We have to care for the garment given to us at baptism and preserve it undefiled throughout our lifetime to the very day when Christ returns (which is exactly what we pray at the baptismal service). Following Christ requires synergy – we have to be co-workers with Christ for our salvation.  The wedding garment is our responsibility to secure and preserve so that we will have the glorious garment to wear when we enter the heavenly wedding banquet in the Kingdom of God.

Spiritual Vigilance in Holy Week

The Lord Jesus told us the Parable of the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13) :

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them;  but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.  As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.  But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’  Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut.  Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  (Matthew 25:1-13)


(Hymn of Bridegroom Matins Holy Tuesday)