HOLY AND GREAT MONDAY
I often think of the Church as a treasure chest full of precious gems, so overflowing and of such varied hues and designs that I will never even see all of them, or be able to fully appreciate them in my lifetime. That’s because the Church is “the fullness of Him that fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:23) or in other translations “who fills all things everywhere with himself,” or “who fills everything in every way,” or “who everywhere fills the universe with Himself.” Doesn’t that sound like a lot to take in?
Every day on the church calendar is rich with the history of our salvation, and with the memory of people who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. But because I 1) have a finite amount of time, and 2) am overly caught up in the cares of this world or my own selfish concerns, I miss many of those connections as the days fly by. Today is the first I recall noticing two traditions of Monday in Holy Week, stories that are brought to our remembrance every year on this day:
Jesus Cursing the Fig Tree — That I love fig trees and figs is not pertinent to this story, in which a fig tree is symbolic of those who do not bring forth the fruits of repentance. This is an event that “actually occurred on the day of the biblical Holy Monday,” as the Wikipedia article tells us.
The Patriarch Joseph — The story of Joseph the son of Jacob, how his brothers sold him into slavery but God raised him to be a ruler in Egypt, is one of my favorites. It’s such a lesson in how God has His purposes which most of us can’t comprehend, especially when we suffer because of the sins of others.
The theme of the hymn this day is: “Joseph, though enslaved in body, preserved his soul in freedom.” He is the positive counterpart to the unfruitful fig tree, and this Mystagogy post explores how the freedom from passions (sin) compares to the kinds of freedom we typically care about and fight for these days.
One of the passions that Joseph seems to have avoided is bitterness or resentment. He didn’t want his brothers to feel bad anymore about what they did to him, because he thinks they all should rejoice instead and be grateful for what God has done in preserving their people, God’s chosen nation, in the famine. Years ago I learned in a Bible study all the many, many ways that Joseph is a type of Christ. Just more of those riches that I am inadequate to hold on to.
But this week we also have the theme of Jesus the Bridegroom. In our parish we are able to have Bridegroom Matins at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. What a blessing! And Lord willing, I’ll be there for at least one of those services and feel the warmth emanating from a few diamonds or rubies of the Church’s treasury.