Today was Palm Sunday for us Orthodox Christians, and tonight I attended the first of the Bridegroom Matins services. Until this year, at least as long as I’ve been a member, our parish has held this service in the morning, but this year we are doing it in the evening. Here is an explanation of the tradition:
“Bridegroom Matins is a service specific to the first four evenings of Holy Week and commemorates the last days in the earthly life of the Lord. Incorporated into these services is the theme of the first three days of Holy Week; which is the last teachings of Christ to his disciples. As such, these services incorporate readings and hymns inspiring this theme. The mood of the services is to experience sorrow and to feel Christ’s voluntary submission to His passions and highlight the purpose behind the evil that is about to take place against the Lord. The atmosphere is one of mourning (for sins) and is symbolic of the shame the Christian should feel for the Fall of Adam and Eve, the depths of hell, the lost Paradise and the absence of God.”
Those mornings that seem so long ago, I would arrive in the dark, and come out from the service after the sun had risen; many times I’d walk around the church property and take pictures before driving home. This evening, I came straight home and visited my own garden, which was radiant with the setting sun after a rainy day.
One of the Gospel stories featured in today’s Matins service is the parable of the barren fig tree. Here is my own tree, that is not likely to be fully illustrative of that parable, come fall.
At least seven Psalms are read at every Orthodox Matins service, and tonight two more were read, including this one:
Psalm 19 (20)
May the Lord hear thee in the day of tribulation:
may the Name of the God of Jacob protect thee.
May he send thee help from the sanctuary:
and defend thee out of Zion.
May he be mindful of all thy sacrifices:
and may thy whole burnt offering be made fat.
May he give thee according to thine own heart;
and confirm all thy counsels.
We will rejoice in thy salvation;
and in the Name of our God we shall be exalted.
The Lord fulfill all thy petitions:
now have I known that the Lord hath saved his anointed.
He will hear him from his holy heaven:
the salvation of his right hand is in powers.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God.
They are bound, and have fallen,
but we are risen, and are set upright.
O Lord, save the king:
and hear us in the day that we shall call upon thee.