Great and Holy Wednesday

The Matins gospel proclaims that Christ has reached the hour of his glory. His glory is his infinite divine love for the human race, by which he tramples death by death:

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:27-29). It is truly “time for the Lord to act.”

The evening gospel is a study in contrasts. This meal at the home of Simon the Leper is juxtaposed with the meal in the upper room, the last or mystical supper. It is a tradition that Judas Iscariot was the son of Simon the Leper. The sinful woman is contrasted with the elite apostle, one of the twelve. The woman finds salvation through an effusive outpouring of expensive myrrh, the apostle disapproves (though not alone in his disapproval), feigning a virtuous love for the poor.

“A woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table. She has done a good thing for me …. In pouring this perfumed oil upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial” (Matthew 26:7-12). But “one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:14-15)” What does betrayal of the Lord mean? It was for this action of Judas that this Wednesday was called “Spy Wednesday,” and that abstinence was prescribed for Wednesdays.

The holy nun Cassia wrote a beautiful sticheron on this theme. The corpus of her works is not large, but very important, it includes also the doxasticheron for Christmas.

“O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing your divinity, O Lord, assumed the myrrh-bearers’ role; preparing you with myrrh before your burial. She said: Woe is me, for gloomy, moonless night incites mu unbridled desires and lust for sin. You who draw down sea water from the clouds accept the fountain of my tears. Incline to the groaning of my heart as you bowed the heavens when you emptied yourself. I will kiss your immaculate feet, and wipe them with the hair of my head; those feet whose steps Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself in fear. Who will search out the multitude of my sins or plumb the depths of your judgments, do not despise me your servant, O Savior of my soul, for your mercy knows no measure.”