I behold Thy Bridal Chamber richly adorned, O my Savior.
But I have no wedding garment to worthily enter.
Make radiant the garment of Thy soul,
O Giver of Life and save me.
It is, for me, one of the loveliest, most poignant services of the whole church year. Bridegroom Matins. And the Church is kind enough to give it to us on three evenings of Holy Week. My story is all tangled up in here. And I sometimes feel like God and I are curled up in an armchair looking through an old photo album as He gently whispers, Remember…..
On the third evening we ponder the stories of Judas the traitor and the fallen woman.
I am the arrogant Judas, frustrated that God does not act as I think He should. Willing to take matters into my own hands. Faithless. Disloyal. Greedy. As much as I abhor his choice, it is a choice with which I am all too familiar.
I am also the fallen woman. Desperate. Without resource. Without hope. Standing outside the bridal chamber, filthy and unclothed. So broken that I would risk humiliation to pour myself out at the feet of One…the only One…who can save me.
Why is one saved and the other hopelessly lost?
When the sinful woman was offering her spice, the sinful disciple was making a bargain with the transgressors of the law. The one rejoiced in pouring out the spice so great in price, while the other hastened to sell the Priceless One. The one knew the Master, the other was separated from the Lord. She was freed and Judas became a slave to the enemy. Indifference is evil, but great is repentance…
Ah for the wretchedness of Judas! For, seeing the adulteress kiss the traces of His feet, he was thinking with deceit of the kiss of betrayal. She loosed her braids, and he was bound with wrath, offering instead of spice, rotted evil; for envy knoweth not how to honor anything which is good…
I belong here. In the Bridal Chamber. Not because I have done the right thing. Not because I have proved myself worthy. But because I have thrown myself upon His mercy. Because He has clothed me in His own righteousness, of His good pleasure.
Near the close of the service is sung the Troparion of Kassiani. She is my patron saint, and it is this hymn, in part, that wed my soul to hers. She has given most exquisite expression to the groaning of my soul.
A woman who had fallen into many sins
perceiving Thy Divinity, O Lord,
fulfilled the part of a myrrh-bearer,
And with lamentations
poured that sweet smelling oil of woe
on Thee before Thy burial;
Woe is me! she said.
For night surrounds me,
dark and moonless
and stings my lustful passions
with a love of sin.
Accept the fountain of my tears,
O Thou who drawest down from the clouds,
the waters of the seas
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 the abyss of Thy judgments,
O Savior of my soul?
Despise me not, Thine handmaiden,
for Thou hast mercy without measure.
“May He who is going to His voluntary passion for our salvation, Christ our true God…have mercy on us and save us forasmuch as He is good and loveth mankind.”
*All unattributed quotes from the Lenten Triodion, Bridegroom Matins service. Also, you can sample my favorite recording of the Hymn of Kassiani HERE.