Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Holy Wednesday Evening

I should begin by explaining that tonight, Holy Wednesday, we had the Holy Thursday Matins. All of Holy Week, services are performed "in anticipation" - Palm Sunday evening, we do the Matins of Holy Monday morning, and so on and so forth throughout the week. So tonight, Holy Wednesday night, we did the matins of Holy Thursday morning.

"Today Judas abandons all pretense of love for the poor. Not caring for them, he assumes the very shape of greed. Instead of selling the sinful woman's myrrh, He sells the anointed one of God and steals the proceeds. He runs to the lawless Jews and asks: What will you give me if I betray him to you? Cursed be the traitor's love of silver! He lowers the price and bargains like a trader. He sells Jesus like a runaway slave, not asking much. For thieves never regard the value of precious things; Now the disciple casts holy things to the dogs. Maddened with avarice, he howls against the master. Let us flee from his example and cry: Long-suffering Lord, Glory to you!" hymn from Holy Thursday Matins,

Until this year, Holy Wednesday night has been the Unction Service, but this year, the Archbishop sent out a notice saying that we really did need to start doing Unction earlier in the day (and only once - apparently some parishes did it twice, morning and evening), and we needed to do Holy Thursday Matins. This was the first I knew of there BEING a Holy Thursday Matins. It's not in the Holy Week service book. I would love to have it explained to me how anyone ever approved a book of Holy Week services which completely eliminated one from the roster. Having just returned from the first Holy Thursday Matins I have ever attended in seventeen years of being Orthodox, I feel many things - sadness, awe, inspiration - and a growing annoyance. Seventeen years I have been deprived of this service! Then this year, Father got three (3) copies of the Holy Thursday Matins, one for himself and two for Susan and I, to read and chant. Considering that we all three were working from texts with which we were unfamiliar (and that Susan and I had never seen before), the various editing errors, the occasional line completely omitted from the English side of the book, and directions that were confusing and wrong... the service was actually NOT a complete train wreck. Which I feared it would be, when the first thing I saw upon opening the book was a line completely missing from one of the first prayers. That doesn't usually bode well for the next two hours, you know?
Susan and I were alternating every few verses, and the one above was the last in one of my sections, and I was thankful it was the last. It's usually not until Holy Thursday night that we have at least one female reader in tears, but that hymn was my limit. I had never read the betrayal of Judas discussed in such calculating, monetary terms. It's hard to think about, let alone read aloud.
On to Holy Thursday and the matins of Great Friday - I don't know ANYONE who says, "Gee, isn't Holy Thursday night such FUN?" It's the Matins of the Crucifixion. It's twelve Gospel readings (betrayal, trial, and crucifixion in all four Gospels). It's relentless. It's disturbing. It's very upsetting. It's the reason I've never felt the need to see The Passion - we read the script every Holy Thursday.


Mimi said...

But, such a beautiful service, the 12 Gospels.

Our parish did Holy Unction last night, Holy Thursday Matins this morning, a Vesperal Liturgy that basically starts in about five minutes, and then will have the 12 Gospels tonight.

prayers for you! What a blessing to have attended last night.

Pres. Kathy said...

I love the service of the 12 Gospels.