Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Fr. Josiah Trenham in Romania

Friday, May 17, 2024

A new hierarch for the Metropolis of Denver

(GOARCH) - His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America is pleased to announce that the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate accepted the Holy Eparchial Synod’s petition and unanimously elected His Grace Bishop Constantine of Sassima as the new Metropolitan of the Holy Metropolis of Denver at its meeting today.

His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Denver was born in Baltimore on October 30th, 1966. He graduated from Hellenic College (BA) in 1991 and Holy Cross (Master of Divinity) in 1994. Thereafter, he was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1994 and has served the Sacred Archdiocese of America in various capacities ever since as an Archimandrite and Presiding Priest at the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Baltimore, and as Chancellor of the Holy Metropolises of New Jersey and Denver, respectively. Furthermore, he has served on the Archdiocesan Council and the Board of Trustees at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Most recently, he served the pastoral and liturgical needs of the Holy Metropolis of Denver.

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros has directed the clergy of the Holy Metropolis of Denver to commemorate the canonical name of their new Shepherd in the divine services. The Archbishop also expressed his gratefulness to the Locum Tenens of the Holy Metropolis of Denver, His Eminence Metropolitan Nathanael of Chicago, for his loving and faithful archpastoral oversight of the metropolis, its clergy, and faithful.

The Enthronement of His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Denver will take place on Saturday, June 22, 2024, at 10:00 a.m., at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Assumption in Denver, Colorado. The following day, Sunday of the Holy Pentecost, His Eminence will celebrate his first Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral as the new Metropolitan of Denver.

Met. Saba: "May God protect us from replacing Orthodox unity with an Orthodox union."

Metropolitan Saba (Isper) posted this article today entitled "What is the goal?" on the topic of the so-called "deaconess" issue wherein a woman was "ordained" to be a deaconess in Africa. This differs from the status quo in Alexandria where women were set aside as deaconesses in a non-liturgical role. They vested her like a deacon and had her communing people. All to the surprise of not only the world, but from the patriarch's letter, from the patriarchate as well. You can read more about that here

Internet response to this has ranged from "Finally our day has come!" to "Maranatha!" from the people you would assume would say which. For my part, Orthodox unity right now seems to be hanging on by a thread. We are one event from a de facto dissolution of the Assembly of Bishops as a functional body.

We can only hope more jurisdictions are similarly disposed to speak publicly on this as His Eminence was. One thing is for certain: putting your head in the sand and pretending like it is not happening or that it will go away is not going to resolve this even a little bit.

(AOCANA) - During Holy Week, ecclesiastical media reported news of the ordination of a liturgical deaconess in one of the churches in Zimbabwe, Africa, affiliated with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. I won't delve into the subject of ordaining a deaconess. That's a matter I'll leave to theologians and synods, for now. In this article, I'll simply raise some questions stemming from this event. Such an event requires Orthodox consensus, as any ecclesiastical action outside Orthodox consensus and unanimity poses a danger and leads to undesirable consequences. How much more so a matter as sensitive as this, especially at this time, would be considered a step towards the ordination of women to the priesthood.

There is no doubt that a deep and faithful study of the Christian heritage, especially the Orthodox one, and the pastoral needs required by the Church in today's world, is urgently needed for this topic. However, resorting to individual decisions remains more dangerous than any step its proponents might perceive as beneficial to the Church. Theological studies require scientific honesty and objectivity, not manipulation of information to serve personal agendas. Here, the role of the pure saints, not just scholars and researchers, is highlighted, lest we negate what we have been saying for centuries, that theology is the experience of God's presence, not just rational or philosophical thinking.

My deliberations stem from a concern for Orthodox unity, which I see in danger due to the absence of dialogue among the churches and the spread of individualism within them, to the point where the fear of following the footsteps of Protestant-type individualism is imminent. May God protect us from replacing Orthodox unity with an Orthodox union.

The existence of deaconesses in the early Church needs further clarification. Our historical information does not confirm that all churches witnessed the service of deaconesses, but rather some, especially large churches and in major cities. Moreover, the distinction between the service of deaconesses and the service of widows also needs further exploration. Our available information indicates that the service of deaconesses included several aspects, such as guarding and overseeing the women's section in the church; according to the social custom in the past, women and men each stood in designated areas of the nave. Also, deaconesses assisted women in baptisms, such as anointing their bodies with oil. Furthermore, deaconesses may have been responsible for teaching women, but not all scholars agree on this. In the fourth service, based on the social tradition of the past, deaconesses accompanied women when they needed to meet with the bishop, as it was forbidden for a bishop to meet with a woman alone.

There came a time when this ministry fell into disuse in the Church. We do not know the exact reasons for its disappearance. Don't we need studies to show the reasons why? Don't we need to clarify its fields of service before adopting it in our churches? Is its acceptance consistent with Orthodox tradition and understanding of the ordained priesthood? Can it be limited to educational service and service of love in all its forms? What are the boundaries between this ministry and the ministry of the faithful (laity)? What are the motives behind giving it a liturgical role? Why is this role necessary?

If this type of service is authentic, should we demand it, and does the Church really need it? To what extent do we demand it as influenced by humanistic and feminist movements? What is motivating the Church to activate its pastoral service: theological thought or worldly thought? How does the Church respond to the faith, moral, and humanitarian challenges facing today's societies? On what basis does the Church build its pastoral programs, social or theological?

Moreso, what is the effect of accepting deaconesses and female priests in non-Orthodox churches that have adopted this phenomenon? Has this acceptance increased their spiritual and numerical growth, or the opposite? Is accepting deaconesses a first step towards accepting priestesses? What would be the effect of having male and female priests on the spiritual and theological concept of the priesthood? To what extent does this contribute to the secularization or degeneration of the priesthood and considering it a religious function? What is the psychological effect of having both sexes around the Holy Table?

Where will the Orthodox Church end up if each church continues to adopt what it deems appropriate without consulting and agreeing among all Orthodox churches? Where is the collective spirit that distinguishes Orthodoxy? What about the unity of the Faith? And what will unite Orthodox Churches if practices without unanimous agreement begin to appear here and there?

Do those who applaud the emergence of deaconesses think about the future of Orthodox unity? How do we know if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to work and create new talents? How do we know if we are limiting It within the framework of our limited thinking? Are we submitting It to our personal desires and visions?

I won't add any more questions here, although they would be necessary if we truly want to be honest, faithful, and pure in every work we do in the Church. The pain from what is happening stifles me.

I hope that some of these questions encourage a few sincere, honest, and humble persons to pause before proceeding with individualism that increases divisions and creates new schisms.

Elpidophoros "put[ting] new wine into old wineskins"

The question that keeps getting asked on the Internet is, "When is Constantinople going to do something?" Or, more naively (bless their hearts), "Does His All-Holiness know about this?!" The answer is, if you have been reading previous posts on events in the US being brought up at the regular meetings of the synod in the Phanar, that Patriarch Bartholomew is well aware of the things going on.

(Orthochristian.com) - Over the weekend, the outlet lifo.gr published an interview with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America entitled, “Discriminating against people based on their love life isn’t Orthodoxy.”

In the interview, the Archbishop discusses the Baptism that he served in Greece in the summer of 2022, dubbed the Greek Church’s “first openly gay Baptism” by one of the gay fathers of the children who were baptized.

The event became an international scandal, and the Greek Holy Synod sent a letter of protest to Abp. Elpidophoros and a corresponding letter to Patriarch Bartholomew. The Archbishop was not accorded the usual greeting of a hierarch when he visited Mt. Athos in January of this year because of the public spectacle surrounding the “gay Baptism.”

Nevertheless, Abp. Elpidophoros affirms in the new interview that he would absolutely serve such a Baptism again.

He also compares the hierarchs of the Greek Church who openly protested the legalization of gay marriage in Greece with antisemites and Nazis.

Abp. Elpidophoros also argues that because 70% of Orthodox marriages in America today are to non-Orthodox or even non-Christians, the Church can’t have an “exclusionary mentality.” He has openly stated in the past that because of the prevalence of these mixed marriages, the non-Orthodox spouses of Orthodox Christians should be allowed to receive Holy Communion in Orthodox churches.

Read the relevant portion of the Archbishop’s new interview:

—Is there room for modernization in the Church?

—Over the years, the Church has changed and evolved. Clearly, what cannot be influenced are the principles of the faith. Everything else, however, can be modernized. Undoubtedly, some people get agitated even at the mention of the word “change.” I advocate that the practice of our religious duties cannot be threatened, just adapted. You change the way the truth of the Gospel is expressed. You put new wine into old wineskins, as our sacred texts mention. Confidence and courage are needed from the clergy so that in every era we can speak the language and communication codes of the time. Otherwise, we only manage to marginalize the Church and put ourselves out of community. Consider that today 70% of marriages in the United States are made with non-Orthodox and in many cases non-Christians. Therefore, if we adopt an exclusionary mentality, our flock will diminish each year. However, the Church has always embraced and will embrace all people. Everyone is accepted and welcome. The "exclusionary mentality" here might be reference to his public desire to commune non-Orthodox spouses. This is not unique to the archbishop; it has been echoed in interviews with other metropolitans. More broadly, he seems to think that being more open and accepting is what will grow the church. Do you agree? Do we find the most growth in the jurisdictions where the emphasis is on Orthodoxy or on Orthodoxy being conducive to modernity?

—You faced intense criticism for serving the first Baptism of a same-sex couple’s children in Greece. After everything that was written and said, do you have any regrets?

—First, let's clarify, because this was also misinterpreted, that we are talking about a Baptism ceremony, not a marriage. When the parents asked me to baptize their children, as I was obliged to do, I accepted with great joy. I don't think he was obliged to travel outside of his canonical territory, not notify the local hierarch of the special circumstances, or attend the lavish party - complete with fireworks - afterward. Besides, the Godparents were Orthodox and I had absolutely no reason to refuse. This novel and truly incredible criterion that some use, namely that we must discriminate against people based on their sexual life, is not Orthodoxy, it doesn't even count as a humane attitude. We can’t elevate sexual behavior and someone’s love life as the sole criterion either to accept or reject them. These are unprecedented things and I would say that in Greece, they are a result of an imported Western Puritanism. Read that again. Is that a "love is love" argument? For example, they interpret the original sin as sexual. If you read Genesis, nowhere does it mention sex nor that the original sin was related to a “sexual” act. Essentially, it was nothing more than the rejection of God’s authority on moral issues, namely disobedience, i.e. a misuse of the freedom of choice. We don’t even know if it was an apple, if it was generally a fruit, because it doesn’t matter. The motive was selfishness and ambition, not sex or love. It was a Puritan fabrication and nothing else, aimed at incriminating sexual acts and romantic behavior, and on top of this guilt narrative, which has nothing to do with Christian teaching, some invested in order to control people, projecting an inherited punishment. Thus, we reached, even in Greece, this extreme phenomenon, where the sexual behavior of a person becomes a criterion for any discrimination in professional, social, or political spheres, even within the Church. It is entirely un-Christian and never has Greek culture weighed any person according to their romantic behavior. We must condemn all forms of violence, verbal and physical, and denounce the hatred and prejudice based on each person's differences. If your bingo card included "words are violence," please use your dauber now.

—Did the criticism and what was written about your trip to Mount Athos and the possibility of a postponement because you would not be welcomed bother you?

—Criticism makes us all better and it doesn’t bother me. What saddened me is that the facts were misrepresented, something that also reflects the real intention of the people who protested. What we eventually saw happen is a defamation campaign on the verge of yellow journalism. I repeat, all I did was baptize two little children. And it’s something I would do again, without any difficulty.

—On the occasion of the voting on the marriage equality bill, we heard incendiary statements from metropolitans like Nikolaos of Mesogaias, who in his lengthy report to the Synod characterized homosexuality as a deviation and mentioned that “our biggest mistake would be to accept that the homosexual act, apart from being a psychological disorder, is not also a sin.” How would you comment on that?

—Look, I listen carefully to everyone who seeks my advice. However, I am neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist. Therefore, to come out publicly and stigmatize anyone, I must tell you, I consider it fascistic. And fascistic behaviors are based on blaming our fellow citizens for some reason. We have seen it historically happen, e.g., with the Nazis. It’s an extremely dangerous mentality, which manifests in various aspects. Look what’s happening with the rising trend of antisemitism. Therefore, is it possible for the Church to give the impression that it blesses or covers up or tolerates such behaviors with its silence? This is a malignant disease, a carcinoma that will spread to other parts of the body. Today it may be Jews, tomorrow homosexuals, the day after tomorrow dark-haired, blond people, and at some point, fascism will knock on our door and we will feel the cold metal cutting our neck. Especially, the degree of antisemitism in a society shows how healthy it is. These are ideologies that bloodied Europe and the world and can have no relation to Christian theology, no matter how some try to dress their extreme ideological fantasies in a Christian cloak. Read that again. Maintaining the historical stance on homosexuality as being contrary to the divine plan is now both fascism and cancer.

—There were also some metropolitans who argued that those who voted for the marriage equality bill should be banned from entering the churches. What did you think of this?

—You see how the cancer I told you about progresses? Do you see that when something is left unchecked, it goes further? The abscess must be cut and we need to set a limit, because as a society, we’re very likely at risk. It’s clear, therefore, that fascist behaviors have no place in the Church.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Alexandria speaks on deaconess kerfuffle

This letter fails to address much of what many people are asking. To name but a few:

  • How could this happen?
  • By what authority to you make an entirely new order of clergy?
  • What are you going to do next?
  • Is this woman going to perform as her bishop "ordained" her to do?

(Patriarchate of Alexandria) - In the last few days, there was talk about the energy of the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Zimbabwe and Angola, Mr. Seraphim, who, last Thursday, May 2, 2024 , ordained a minister for the missionary needs of his Holy Metropolis. The event caused a lot of reactions, and gave rise to the free expression of various opinions and approaches.

To avoid confusion, the following is clarified:

– The mission in Africa needs deaconesses, mainly for the pastoral work and for the baptisms of adult women, as well as in special cases, such as widowhood, in stricter male-dominated environments, where for a long time the widowed woman is cut off from social and church life.

- The Church is well aware of the position, the order and the conditions-conditions of the status of a ministry, as they are described in the Prayers, the Rules of the Apostolic Orders and the Synod in Trullo. It is particularly pointed out that deaconesses were never established in the history of the Church as women-ministers of the Holy Mysteries, but as dedicated women-helpers of the general pastoral, liturgical and sanctifying work of the Church, addressed only to women, where local conditions and customs they were excluded from church life. The first Church was faced with this pastoral problem and found the solution, through deacons. When, of course, societies progressed spiritually, matured, recognized women's rights, the institution of deaconesses fell into disuse. But it is documented that the institution existed and certainly remains in the "spiritual arsenal" of the Church to deal with similar situations even today, under special local conditions.

-In the face of the continuous spread of the Gospel word in Africa and the continuous influx of local brothers to Orthodoxy, pastoral issues were raised, concerning African women, exactly similar to those faced by the Church of the early Christian years. The Holy Synod of the Presbyterian Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa took the decision in principle to revive and activate the institution of Deaconesses within its pastoral jurisdiction. However, this Decision was referred for further study to finalize the individual details, such as the vestment, the way of ministry and the functional position of the deacons in the life of the Church today.

However, Rev. Metropolitan of Zimbabwe Mr. Seraphim, for many years a missionary in Africa, joined the implementation of the initial decision of the Holy Synod, which, however, has not become active until today, since the study on the subject to take the final Synodal Decision has not been completed. Does this mean he jumped the gun? Does it mean this was the eventual goal of the study? Is some correction coming? What of this woman?

Let us have confidence in our Church and especially in the Ambassadorial Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, which sacrificially, quietly and selflessly proclaims Christ and this Crucified One to the ends of the African land, based on the tradition and practice of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. May the same sensitivity be shown, which now appears in the case of the intention to properly revive an ancient pastoral act of our Holy Church and in the matters of staffing the holy clergy of the Patriarchal Throne of Saint Mark, of the systematic and practical support of the Apostolic work in Africa or to the major issue of the illegal entry of another Autocephalous Church into the jurisdictional limits of the Palaeate Patriarchate of Alexandria and to the blasphemous attempt to split His native flock, which came to know Christ through the intense sacrificial ministry and the death of even humble Greek missionaries, to the glory of God and illumination of our African brothers who are "in darkness and the shadow of death".

From the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa

Alexandria, May 11, 2024

Metropolitan Theoliptos (Fenerlis) of Konya : “The Ordination Of Deaconess Is A Disgrace!”

(Romfea translated by Helleniscope) - I was very surprised to read on the internet that a metropolitan of the second-throne Patriarchate of Alexandria ordained a deaconess in distant Zimbabwe.

Arbitrarily, an Orthodox Church went ahead and restored an old institution that has languished since the 3rd century AD.

Indeed, in the first three centuries there was in the Church the institution of deaconesses, who at that time performed the duties of newcomers in the Church and mainly helped in the baptisms of women and did social work.

After the 3rd century AD, when infant baptism was introduced in the Church, the institution of deaconesses was weakened.

Over time, of course, various forms were introduced into the Church, other institutions according to the needs of each era.

Today, for example, we have charitable fraternities in our parishes. Who have undertaken the social work of the Church.

We have infant baptism. So deaconesses are not needed. Do we need them in the Orthodox Church? Of course not.

This institution may not have been officially abolished, but from the 3rd century until the 21st century, I think centuries passed and it no longer exists in our Church.

Pascha in the Midwest


Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The "Nahire" service in the Syriac Orthodox Church

In the evening on Palm Sunday, the Service of Nahire — also called the Feast of Lights or the Entrance to Heaven Service — is held. It is a ritual unique to the Syriac Orthodox Church. The service focuses on the Parable of the Ten Virgins, which Jesus told to explain the need for constant preparedness to enter Heaven. Syriac prayers that recount the story are recited while the church lights are turned off, only candles held by the congregation provide illumination. The priest, deacons, and altar boys deliver the sermon by the pews because the altar is closed. The sermon concludes with the priest shouting thrice, “Moran, Moran ftah lan tar3okh” (O Lord, O Lord, open Thy door for us), which prompts the church lights to be turned on and the curtain to be opened. Nahire means “light” in Syriac, and the idea behind the practice is that by inviting Jesus into one’s heart, one will be shown the light and accepted into heaven through his grace.

One of the prayers chanted is Btarcokh Moran Noqeshno (At Your door, O Lord, I knock):

At Your door, O Lord, I knock, 

And from Your treasury I ask for mercies. 

I am a constant sinner and have turned aside from Your way. 

Grant me to confess and renounce my sins, 

And to live in Your grace. 

At whose door, other than Yours, 

Shall we knock, O Gracious Lord? 

Whom do we have to plead with You on behalf of our transgressions, 

If Your own mercy pleads not? 

O King, Whom the kings worship and glorify. 

Confecting chrism in the OCA

(OCA) - On May 2, 2024, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon consecrated Holy Chrism during the Vesperal Divine Liturgy of Great and Holy Thursday at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, South Canaan, PA.

Concelebrating the Vesperal Divine Liturgy with His Beatitude were His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West, His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, His Eminence Archbishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, His Eminence Archbishop Michael of New York and New York and New Jersey, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of Chicago and the Midwest, His Grace Bishop Nikodhim of Boston and the Albanian Archdiocese, His Grace Bishop Benedict of Hartford and New England, His Grace Bishop Andrei of Cleveland and Administrator of the Romanian Episcopate, and His Grace Bishop Gerasim of Fort Worth and Auxiliary to the the Diocese of the South.

Concelebrating priests included Archpriest Alexander Rentel, OCA Chancellor, Archimandrite Sergius (Bowyer), Archpriest John Parker, Dean of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, Archpriest Alessandro Margheritino, OCA Secretary, and other monastery, seminary, and visiting clergy.

During the Great Entrance, Fr. Alexander Rentel carried the alabaster flask containing the historic chrism while the jars containing the newly confected chrism were carried by the other concelebrating priests. Following the Anaphora, His Beatitude consecrated the chrism.

Following the Vesperal Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude addressed those assembled, noting that the Holy Chrism is “a sign of the fullness of the unity of Christ that abides among and within the Churches through the presence of the Holy Spirit.” He offered his gratitude for offering their time and energy to take part in the rite and greeted those present.

The Epitaphios in Jerusalem

Bishop Matthias (Moriak) has reposed in the Lord

CHICAGO, IL (OCA-DMW) – His Eminence, Archbishop Daniel, has received word that Bishop Matthias (Moriak), retired Bishop of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest, reposed this morning (Holy Saturday) after a prolonged illness. Bishop Matthias served as diocesan bishop of the Diocese of the Midwest from 2011 to 2013.

Archbishop Daniel calls upon all the clergy and faithful of the Diocese to remember the newly-departed Bishop Matthias in their prayers throughout the next forty days. As we now celebrate Christ’s victorious resurrection, we pray that Bishop Matthias may share in that victory in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Monday, May 6, 2024

Pascha in Moscow

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Palm Sunday in the Ethiopian Church

Monday, April 29, 2024

ROCOR defrocks clergy who left for EP

The process of accepting clergy without proper release is happening in both directions. It is almost as if both sides prefer to take clergy without the paperwork. 

(Orthochristian) - At its session on March 5, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia dealt with the issue of a number of clerics who departed from ROCOR and joined the Slavic Vicariate of the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America without a canonical release.

In particular, the Synod considered the cases of Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov), Archpriest Andrei Pastukh, Archpriest Edward Chervinsky, and Protodeacon Vladimir Oliynyk, “who wrought disturbance in the church life of several diocesan parishes.”

The Synod reports:

Having discussed the resolution and the circumstances of their cases comprehensively, including actions undertaken by all four that have been a cause of temptation for both clergy and flock, to the point of departing beneath the omophorion of a separate jurisdiction without a release from their ruling bishop, it is with sorrow that the Synod of Bishops adopts the following resolution, provided here in brief:

To ratify the resolution of the Spiritual Court of the Eastern American Diocese regarding the laicization of the former Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov), Archpriest Andrei Pastukh, Archpriest Edward Chervinsky, and Protodeacon Vladimir Oliynyk.

OrthoChristian reported last April on former Igumen Tikhon (Gayfudinov), who not only personally switched jurisdictions, but took the Holy Protection Skete in Buena Vista Township, New Jersey, with him.

A lawsuit is currently underway concerning the monastery property.

The head of the Slavic Vicariate, former Archimandrite Alexander (Belya), is also suing the ROCOR Synod of Bishops, the Eastern American Diocese, and a number of other ROCOR clerics after he failed to secure his election as Bishop of Miami in the summer of 2019.

The Vicariate was then created in 2020 as a haven for Belya, who was defrocked by ROCOR after he abandoned the jurisdiction without a canonical release. GOARCH has tried to make Belya a bishop, but the hierarchs of other jurisdictions have loudly protested.

His father, former Archpriest Alexander Belya, also left ROCOR and was later defrocked together with several clerics who followed him.

On Bridegroom Matins

(Antiochian) - On Sunday night of Holy Week, we pray the first of three Bridegroom Matins. For Holy Week all of the services are done half a day earlier than normal out of heightened anticipation (for example, on Sunday evening we are praying the service for Monday morning). The main hymn of Bridegroom Matins is a reflection based on Matthew 24:42, "Watch therefore for you know not the hour when the Lord will come," and Matthew 25:6, "At midnight the cry was made, 'behold the Bridegroom comes.'"

Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night; and blessed is the servant whom He shall find vigilant; and unworthy is he whom he shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul that you not be overcome by sleep, lest you be given up to death and be shut out of the Kingdom. Wherefore, rouse yourself crying out: Holy, Holy, Holy are you our God, through the intercessions of the Theotokos save us! (The ending changes slightly each time.)

This hymn, sung three times in a row at each Bridegroom Matins service, reminds us that each of us must remain vigilant in our relationship with God. Sleep represents the attitude of not caring, of not anticipating or longing for the awareness of God's presence in our life. This hymn specifically, and all of Holy Week generally, reminds us that just as the same crowd that shouted "Hosannah" this morning will five days later be shouting "Crucify Him," so we too, if we are not vigilant and attentive to our souls, we too can fall away and miss the coming of God in our lives.

Each Bridegroom Matins service has different themes focusing on various aspects of the last week of Christ's ministry. The first night we focus on the Patriarch Joseph, who is considered the most perfect prefiguring of Christ's innocence and unjust suffering. We also remember the cursed fig tree. The fig tree represents the Jewish nation to whom Jesus had come (for Jesus is a Jew). However, when Jesus came to His people, He found only the outward forms of religion (leaves) but not the fruit of true religion: mercy, truth and compassion. And so we are reminded that just as many years ago Jesus cursed the fig tree with leaves and no fruit, so today we are not safe if we have only the outward appearance of piety and religion but are not also cultivating its fruit.

These are somber themes, but they are meant to be somber. We are going with Christ to the Cross. But even so, the shouts of "Hosannah!" are still ringing in our ears from this morning and the anticipation of the resurrection is beginning to glow dimly in our hearts.