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Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Bridegroom services of Great Week

The Matins services of the first three days of Great Week are called the Bridegroom services. This title is based on the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins who were waiting the arrival of the bridegroom. On the first three days we sing the hymn which begins 'Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night...'.  The Orthodox Church teaches that in this parable the bridegroom represents Christ and the parable reminds us that we should be ready not only to watch and wait to celebrate Christ's Resurrection, but also to pass our lives in repentance knowing that Christ will come again in glory.

On Great Monday, we commemorate the Patriarch Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers for thirty pieces of silver. This incident was a prefiguring of the betrayal of Christ by Judas. We also hear the gospel account of Christ's withering of the fig tree which serves as a reminder to us not to be barren but to bring fruits of repentance unto Christ.

On the Tuesday of Great Week we hear in full the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins and also the parable of the talants. These two parables remind us that the hour of our death is uncertain and that we should be ready at all times to give an account of our actions.

A large number of the hymns of Great Wednesday are devoted to the harlot who anointed Christ with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The services of Great Wednesday contrast her repentance and love of Christ with the greed of Judas who betrayed Christ on the same day. This betrayal is the the reason that Orthodox Christians fast on Wednesday throughout the year.
The icon of the Bridegroom which depicts Christ wearing a crown of thorns and holding a reed in his right hand is placed in the centre of the Church on the first three days of Great Week.

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