Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Bridegroom Service

During the 1st 3 days of Orthodox Holy Week, one of the most beloved liturgical services is celebrated: The Bridegroom Service.

To learn more about this service, please visit HERE for a detailed description, history, and reflection thanks to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

This service combines the historical process of our Lord's time while in Jerusalem prior to his Crucifixion and Resurrection with spiritual preparation learned from certain parables and stories of figures of the Old Testament. During Holy Week, we are called to remember the saving acts of our Lord in Jerusalem. Christ's acts are not happening each year, He has accomplished his work.
Christ the Bridegroom Icon
Image Source

But what did Christ accomplish with his Crucifixion and Resurrection? Are we guaranteed salvation because of what He did for us? There is a famous saying (no clue where it really comes from, but I like it): I am saved; I am being saved; I will be saved! Christ's saving act was simply to give us the OPPORTUNITY to receive salvation.

The Church and our participation in the Life of the Church offers the context for this opportunity to receive salvation. Especially during our Lenten journey and Holy Week, we prepare to receive the Risen Lord. We are called to remember His saving acts, be appreciative for them, and come to the realization of our own unworthiness to receive His grace. And when we come to this realization of unworthiness, we don't despair, but hunger and thirst even more for His divine grace, which our Lord pours out upon us freely. As we increase in our self knowledge, humility grows within us, and through his process, our dependance upon the mercy of God is strengthened.

This process is summed up by one of my favorite sayings, credited to John Newton (former slave ship owner turned Anglican minister, who said: "I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."

The Bridegroom Service during the beginning of Holy Week makes this concept of awareness front and center. We should increase the watchfulness and concern for our soul because the Bridegroom (Christ) is coming. The hymns during this service are beautiful, and the two most important and popular are written below:

Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the midst of the night,
and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching;
yet unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul,
lest you be overcome with sleep,
lest you be given up to death,
and be shut out from the Kingdom.
Wherefore, rouse thyself, and cry:
Holy, Holy, Holy are Thou, our God,
through the protection of the Heavenly Hosts, save us.

I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned,
O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment, that I may enter therein;
O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul, and save me.

Click HERE to listen to these hymns as well as many more from the liturgical services during Great Lent and Holy Week (for the hymned above, scroll down about half way).

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

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