On Holy Monday we remember when our Lord went back to the city of Jerusalem after Palm Easter.
He was hungry, spotted a fig tree, but when He saw it, there were no fruits on it at all.
“May no fruit ever come from you again” Christ said, and the tree shriveled immediately.
When the disciples asked how He did that, our Lord referred to the importance of having faith.
Faith the believers in Christ needed in the days towards to His Crucifixion, battling with feelings of guilt and utter despair.
On Holy Tuesday we read the parable of the ten maidens with their lamps, awaiting the bridegroom for the feast. Our Lord tells the parable in Matthew 25, as a symbol for the Kingdom of Heaven. In this parable the groom stands for Christ, the feast is the banquet celebrated with the Messiah and His faithful.
Five of the girls in the parable were smart, but five acted foolishly. The smart ones had brought enough oil for their lamps, as it was unknown when the groom would arrive. When a cry was heard that the arrival of the groom was at hand, the five foolish maidens realized they did not have enough oil to keep their lamps burning. They went to buy oil, but while they were away, the bridegroom arrived, and only the five wise maidens went to the banquet. The five foolish maidens were too late, and could not enter.
Christ tells us to await Him eagerly, and be prepared- and to not act like the five foolish maidens.
This day we consider two very different approaches to Christ.
The first one is Judas Iscariot, who was one of Christ’s disciples, the other one is a sinful woman.
Judas Iscariot went to one of the senior priests to betray Jesus Christ, and asked him “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him over to you?”. So Judas accepted 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal, actually not a large sum.
The contrasting approach is the one of a woman, traditionally identified with Mary Magdalene, who anointed Christ with exceptionally precious balsam oil from an alabaster vase.
The Gospel of Luke implies that the woman deeply regretted her sins. She wept and poured precious perfumed oil on Christ’s feet and dried it with her hair.
Christ recognized her feelings of repentance and forgave her sins. May we follow her example, and may our sins be forgiven, too.
On Maundy Thursday we first remember the Last Supper of our Lord. The meal our Lord celebrated with His disciples was the Passover or Pesach meal, remembering the deliverance out of Egypt.
The word “Passover” refers to the Biblical story of the tenth plague which God inflicted upon the Egyptians. That night the firstborns died, but the houses of the Israelites, marked with the blood of the sacrificed Passover lamb, were passed over, spared, by God. A young, unblemished male lamb was then taken into an Israelite household. On the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, the lamb had to be slaughtered at twilight, and its blood was to be smeared on the doorposts with a bunch of hyssop as brush – thus death would skip their households.
Unleavened bread was to be baked, all in a hurry, because there was no time to bake leavened bread. The Holy Bread of Eucharist is therefore made without leaven, just as our Lord celebrated it in the Last Supper.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us “Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
The second event we remember on this day, is the washing of the feet. Our Lord washed the feet of His disciples in the Gospel of St. John chapter 13. There our Lord commands us to do likewise with the following words “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
In the early afternoon service His Beatitude washes the feet of the priests in a solemn liturgy.
In the evening we remember that our Lord went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. After the Last Supper, our Lord and His students sang a Psalm of Praise and went then to the Mount of Olives. Our Lord asked His students to stay awake with Him, while he went a bit further in order to pray. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that up to three times our Lord found his students asleep, while He was struggling in prayer.
The Liturgy in Church symbolizes Christ’s loneliness and anguish: the Church is lit with candles only, the story of the Gospels is read in passages, and one by one candles are extinguished, while gloomy darkness grows- only one single candle remains burning.
Friday April 6, at 12.15 we remember our Lord’s death in a service in the Armenian Gallery of the Holy Sepulchre.
At 4.00 pm we have the Solemn Burial Service in St. James Cathedral.
After Christ’s struggle in prayer Judas in the garden of Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday, our Lord was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, who identified Christ by greeting and a kiss. The armed crowd that accompanied Judas then knew whom they had to take prisoner, and brought Him to the High Priest Caiaphas. They questioned our Lord, hit him, heard false witnesses, and eventually gave the verdict of “blasphemy”. As the Sanhedrin wanted to have Christ executed, they brought him over to the Roman authorities. The Prefect in charge was Pontius Pilate whom Jewish historians Josephus Flavius and Philo of Alexandria, describe as greatly cruel and unjust. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Christ was also sent to king Herod, who was curious after all the stories he had heard about our Lord. King Herod could not any miracle or information out of our Lord, so he had him sent back to Pilate, but only after humiliating and torturing Christ.
Pilate claimed not to have any responsibility in condemning Jesus to crucifixion, but he had soldiers assigned to execute the verdict of crucifixion. Moreover, a cruel ruler as Pilate probably couldn’t be bothered with sentencing a Jew to death.
Christ was beaten, flagellated and mocked. They made Christ carry his cross to the place of his execution, Golgotha. There they nailed Christ to the cross, and the reason for his execution written on a shield: This is Jesus, King of the Jews.
The crowds mock Jesus, even the rebels who were crucified next to him.
Then it suddenly turned dark, the sun hid her face.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus cried out again in a loud voice, and gave up his spirit.
Witness of his death on the cross were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons, and others. Feeling utter despair, they finally went from there.
A rich man, Joseph of Arimatea, went to Pilate to claim the body. Joseph wrapped the body of Christ in linen cloth, and buried him in a new grave in a rock, and closed it. And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.