Questions about holy week


Holy week has several beautiful services that have a name that reminds one of marriage. What is the name? When are they served? There is a distinctive "signature" hymn that is sung. What is its text? What is the scriptural basis for the hymn?







Bridegroom matins is celebrated the first 3 days of Holy week. Although matins is usually a morning service, it is often celebrated in the evening "by anticipation". It is basically a "daily" lenten matins, with the exceptional inclusion of a Gospel reading. It is so named because the troparion that is sung after the Great litany and Alleluia verses is "Behold the Bridegroom":

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight, /

and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching,

but unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless.

Beware, therefore, O my soul,

lest thou be weighed down with sleep;

lest thou be given up to death,

and be shut out from the kingdom.

But rouse thyself and cry:

Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God;

through the Theotokos have mercy on us.

The theme of watchfulness, which is so fundamental to true Orthodox belief, is forcefully presented in the scriptures:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. {2} And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. {3} They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: {4} But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. {5} While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. {6} And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. {7} Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. {8} And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. {9} But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. {10} And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. {11} Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. {12} But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. {13} Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Mat 25:1-13) . The present hymn basically summarizes and emphasizes the above parable. This hymn, and it's theme, is so important for Christians that the church also sings it every day in it's daily Midnight Office.



How many Presanctified liturgies are served during Holy week? When is the last one? How is the service different than most of the ones served during Great lent?







One Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the Presanctified liturgy is served, and includes a gospel reading. During Great Lent, this service rarely includes a Gospel reading, but rather, just two readings from the Old Testament.



On Holy Wednesday, in many parishes, a Trebnic service is sometimes served. What is it? What service does it unfortunately often replace?







Many serve Holy Unction service on Wednesday night, and sometimes omit the canonically appointed, and very beautiful and instructive matins for the institution of the Eucharist. The "Trebnic" is a prayer book used by the priest which has many prayers for "special needs" in it, such as unction, marriage, confession, funerals, blessings of all kinds, etc. Holy unction is usually served for the sick (not as "last rites", but for healing), but many serve it for an entire parish, since we are all at least spiritually sick to some degree. Not everyone agrees with this opinion, and some only serve this service for those who are physically sick. This service may be served any time there is a need, and is not prescribed in the typicon for Holy week.



When did Judas contact the Jewish officials to betray the Lord? The services make this clear. Was he present at the last supper? If so, what was he present for and what did he miss (if anything)?







The tradition is that Judas betrayed the Lord on Wednesday, and this is one of the reasons the Apostles instituted fasting on this day (they chose days other than when the Jews fasted). The Holy Wednesday matins meditates on Judas' incredible folly, and the contrasting love of the sinful woman who anointed the Lord with great forcefulness. The Holy Thursday matins also mentions Judas frequently, and condemns his avarice.

In St. Luke's account, it is apparent that Judas sold the Lord well before the last supper, on Holy Thursday:

Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. {2} And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people. {3} Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. {4} And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them. {5} And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. {6} And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude. {7} Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. (Luke 22:1-7)

. It is clear from the scriptures and the church's forceful hymnology that Judas had his feet washed and the and partook of the Holy Mysteries, before going out into the night to betray the Lord, while Our Lord's heavenly discourse with the Apostles was transpiring.

And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. .... {19} And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. {20} Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. {21} But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. (Luke 22:14, 19-21)

St John's account also give a clear chronology. The eight Ode of the matins canon for Holy Thursday makes the church's understanding very clear:

"Iniquitous Iscariot, forgetful of the law of friendship, hastened to the betrayal on the feet that Thou hadst washed. Eating Thy Bread, the divine body, he lifted up his heel against Thee; for he knew not how to cry: 'O ye works of the Lord, praise ye the Lord and exalt Him above all forever".

"Lacking all conscience, he received the Body that delivers men form sin, and the Divine blood that was shed for the world. He was not ashamed to drink what he had sold for money; he felt no anger against sin; for he knew not how to cry: 'O ye works of the Lord, praise ye the Lord and exalt Him above all forever'".



What beautiful hymn about the "sinful woman" is sung while all the people prostrate?







The hymn by Kassiani the Nun is sung at the Aposticha at matins on Holy Wednesday. This hymn, in the eighth tone, is particularly moving when sung in a special Byzantine melody.

The woman who had fallen into many sins, perceiving Thy divinity, O Lord, fulfilled the part of a myrrh- bearer; and with lamentations she brought sweet-smelling oil of myrrh to Thee before Thy burial. 'Woe is me', she said, 'for night surrounds me, dark and moonless, and stings my lustful passion with the love of sin. Accept the fountain of my tears, O Thou who drawest down from the clouds the waters of the sea. Incline to the groanings of my heart, O Thou who in Thine ineffable self-emptying hast bowed down the heavens. I shall kiss Thy most pure feet and wipe them with the hairs of my head, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself for fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and abyss of Thy judgments, O Savior of my soul? Despise me not, Thine handmaiden, for Thou hast mercy without measure.



Who was the only one of the apostles to not abandon the Lord when he was arrested? what important task did the Lord give him while he was on the cross?







St. John the Theologion did not run away when the Lord was arrested, and stayed by the cross when He was crucified. He was entrusted with the care of the Most Holy Theotokos and recounts in his gospel:

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. {26} When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! {27} Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:25-27)



What service is celebrated Holy Thursday morning? Why is it served on this day?







The Vespral divine liturgy of St. Basil the Great is served Thursday morning, following matins (which is usually served Wednesday night). This service begins like vespers, and after the small entrance, Prokeimenon and OT readings "switches" to divine liturgy as if the 3rd antiphon had just finished. The small litany is sung, then the sequence for the reading of the epistle and Gospel, and the rest of the liturgy of St. Basil continues.

The Orthodox Tradition is that the Last Supper was held before the Passover and was thus celebrated with ordinary, leavened bread [Greek: artos] as opposed to unleavened (bread) [Greek: azumos]. In addition, we place this day as Thursday. Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, 24:30 all state that our Lord Jesus Christ took and blessed it, etc. Therefore, this could not have been the Passover meal. Because *all* the evangelists testify to the use of at the Last Supper, we use ordinary, leavened bread for the Eucharist.



It is a pious and important tradition to not eat anything on Holy Friday until when?







Many of the faithful eat nothing on Holy Friday until the vespers service Friday afternoon, the "taking down from the cross". They attend the Royal hours in the morning fasting, and continue their fast until the vespers finishes. Most parishes share a simple meal together at that time. The Greeks like to serve lentil soup, with vinegar in it, to recall the vinegar the Lord was given when He was on the cross.



When is the resurrection first proclaimed in a gospel reading?







The Vespral Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great on Holy Saturday, the longest and latest Divine liturgy of the year, proclaims the resurrection with a reading that include the first matinal gospel of the resurrection, which is read in from of the tomb. It is short and very sweet:

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. {2} And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. {3} His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: {4} And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. {5} And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. {6} He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. {7} And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. {8} And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. {9} And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. {10} Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. {11} Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. {12} And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, {13} Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. {14} And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. {15} So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. {16} Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. {17} And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. {18} And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. {19} Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:1-20)



What is the last service in the Lenten Triodion? What is the first service in the book used after Great Lent and Holy week? Name this book







At the end of the Midnight office for the Sunday of Pascha, which is appointed to be served so that it ends just before Midnight, the Lenten Triodion is put away for the year. The canon appointed for this service is quite beautiful, especially when sung in that peculiar sweet and sad Byzantine melody.


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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas