My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
"BEHOLD THE BRIDEGROOM COMETH IN THE MIDST OF THE NIGHT..."
Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the midst of the night, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be borne down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and lest thou be shut out from the Kingdom. Wherefore rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, our God, through the procession of the Heavenly Hosts save us.
BEHOLD THE BRIDEGROOM (Part II)
by Father Maximos Constas
και μακάριος ο δούλος όν ευρήσει γρηγορούντα--γρηγορώ, γρήγορσις, γρηγόρησης are words that mean wakefulness, watchfulness, a state of spiritual readiness, alertness, vigilance. In Saint Matthew 24, Jesus says: "Concerning that day and hour, no one knows, therefore be vigilant (δια τούτο γρηγορείτε) for you do not know when the Lord is coming."
ανάξιος ο δούλος όν ευρήσει ραθυμούντα - ράθυμος, ραθυμία, means to be slow, lazy, indifferent - it is like the "spirit of sloth" (πνεύμα αργίας) mentioned in the Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephraim, and it means being indifferent to the things of God, being indifferent to one's salvation.
So the hymn presents us with two contrasting figures, two very different individuals, and this contrast will be presented to us even more forcefully at the Bridegroom's Service, in the person of the sinful woman who repented, and in the disciple who by his own actions shut himself outside of the Bridal Chamber. This is why the hymn continues and says:
Βλέπε ούν ψυχή μου, "Behold, therefore, O my soul"--βλέπε means look, behold, like the ιδού. But now the poet addresses himself, and because his voice is our voice, it marks a turn to the self, to self-examination, and is an appeal to the self, just like in the Great Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete: ψυχή μου, ψυχή μου, ανάστα, τι καθεύδεις, το τέλος εγγίζει, "My soul, my soul, wake up, why are you sleeping, the end is drawing near!" And so the sense is watch, beware, take care, be careful. Why? So that...
Μή τώ ύπνω κατενεχθής -- lest you be dragged down by sleep" -- "sleep" is another image from the Parable. The word κατενεχθής is from the word καταφέω, which means to be dragged down, pulled down, weighed down, to descend, to sink, like a sun setting into darkness. "Sleep" is a metaphor for being inactive, for living in a world of dreams, a state of un-reality, and is ultimately a symbol of death.
ίνα μή τώ θανάτω παραδοθής και της βασιλείας έξω κλεισθής - lest you be handed over to death, and be shut out of the kingdom." And rather than suffer a fate, the poet says:
Αλλά ανάνηψον κράζουσα, άγιος, άγιος, άγιος ει ο Θεός ημών - "Rise up and cry, holy, holy, holy, are You O God" - this is the Trisagion (Thrice Holy), the hymn of the Angels; it is an acknowledgement of God's holiness, which is at the same time the recognition of our own un-holiness, and that the source of our holiness is not found within us, but comes to us from God. Later in the week, when Saint Peter declares to Christ: "I will never deny You," he doesn't understand that with those words he has already denied Christ, because he thinks that the source of fidelity to Christ is within himself.
Finally, the light shining in the lamp, and the shining wedding garment, are nothing other than the grace of God, the grace of the Holy Spirit that we have received at baptism. That grace was like a garment covering the soul, and it was given to us without spot or stain, but afterwards we dirtied and defiled it. And this garment is Christ Himself, for: "all who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ; have been clothed in Christ." And it was purchased with a price, for in order to clothe us, He was stripped naked, to fill us with His Grace, He emptied Himself; He became poor so that we might become rich; He was humiliated so that we might be exalted and glorified; He was put to death so that we might live.
Today Christ is asking us: "Is your lamp lit, is it shining with light? If it is, I will not say: Bravo, είσαι καλό παιδί, or offer congratulations, or reward you with anything earthly or perishable, but instead I will take you to Myself, I will join Myself to you, in complete union, I will love you forever, and I will never let you go. You gave only a little, but you will receive much. If you give Me your heart, you will receive all the fullness of God; I will open your mind and fill it with My Light; every moment of your life will be sanctified, and you will know the joy of the Resurrection." So keep the lamb of your faith, keep the lamp of your love for God, burning bright! Allow that light and love to express itself in your life, and live the joy of Pascha, not just ten minutes after midnight this Great and Holy Saturday night, but every day of your life. Amen.
EXAPOSTEILARION 3rd Tone
I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment that I may enter therein; O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul and save me.
A PRAYER FROM GREAT AND HOLY MONDAY
O Holy Lord, Who dwellest above and beholdest things below, and with Thine all surveying eye dost look upon all Creation, to Thee we bow the neck of our soul and body, and we pray Thee, Holy of the Holiest, stretch forth Thine unseen hand from Thy Holy dwelling place and bless all of us; and if we have sinned voluntarily, or involuntarily, do Thou as our Righteous and Merciful God forgive, and grant to us Thine earthly and Heavenly benefits.
For to Thee belong mercy and salvation, O God, and to Thee we ascribe glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the Ages of Ages. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God