One of the themes for Orthodox services today is found in the parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids (Matthew 25: 1-13)
This week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Day, is the last week of Lent. This week is known in the Western Church as Holy Week, and in the Orthodox Church as Great and Holy Week.
The dates of Lent, Holy Week and Easter fall on the same days this year in both the Western Church and the Orthodox Church. In the Western Church, this week lasts from Palm Sunday until but not including Easter Day. In the Orthodox Church, Great and Holy Week lasts from the Saturday of Lazarus until, but not including, Easter Day.
On this week, we recall the last week of Christ’s earthly life culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Day.
This day, the Tuesday in Holy Week, is traditionally associated with the encounter between Christ and Pharisees, when they try to trap him into making a blasphemous remark, and with Christ’s discourse with his disciples on the Mount of Olives about the destruction of Jerusalem and the signs of the last day.
In the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute this morning [Tuesday], we continue our series of Holy Week readings of dramatised versions of the Passion Narrative, with the Gospel according to Saint Mark. In Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at noon, the clergy of the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough renew our ordination vows at the Chrism Eucharist with Archbishop John Neill. The setting is William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices, and we shall also hear T.L. de Victoria’s Veni Creator Spiritus
In Orthodox churches, the Matins (ὄρθρος, Orthros) for today was served last [Monday] night, with the Bridegroom troparion. Vespers is then served this morning and the rest of the Liturgy of the Presanctified is celebrated.
The theme for Orthodox services today is found in two Gospel parables: the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids (Matthew 25: 1-13), and the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), which are also included in the lengthy Gospel reading at Vespers (Matthew 24: 23 to Matthew 26: 2).
These two parables are understood as parables of vigilance and judgment, with their emphasis on our need to accept responsibility for our own lives. They also develop and elaborate the note of judgment we find in the Bridegroom troparion on each of these first three days of Great and Holy Week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The bridegroom will come on Easter night, and we must be prepared for his coming.
The theme of the betrayal of Christ by Judas also makes an appearance today, although this theme becomes more prominent tomorrow [Wednesday] and on the following day [Maundy Thursday].
At Great Compline, we are introduced to one of the principle themes we meet tomorrow, the story of the woman who anoints Christ with fragrant ointment.
Collect of the Day:
who by the passion of your blessed Son made
an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer pain and loss
for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.