Christ the Bridegroom
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Christ The Bridegroom comes from the central figure in the parable of the ten Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13). Christ of the Passion is the diviine Bridegroom of the Church. This title also suggest his presence and His watchfullness: "Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night ...". This is also the name for the central icon used in The Service of the Bridegroom during Holy Week. The Bridegroom is also known as "O Nymphios" in Greek.
Service of the Bridegroom
The first three evenings of Holy Week, the church chants the Orthoros in anticipation and are known as the Service of the Bridegroom or the Nypmhios.
At the first service of Palm Sunday evening, the priest carries the icon of Christ the Bridegroom in procession, and we sings the "Hymn of the Bridegroom." We behold Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God's Kingdom.
Each of these Bridegroom Orthros services has a particular theme.
On Holy Monday, the Blessed Joseph, the son of Jacob the Patriarch, is commemorated. Joseph is often seen as a prototype of Christ. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit and sold into slavery by them. In the same way, our Lord was rejected, betrayed by His own, and sold into the slavery of death. The Gospel reading for the day is The Barren Fig Tree, which Christ cursed and withered because it bore no fruit. The fig tree is a parable of those who have heard God's word, but who fail to bear the fruit of obedience. Originally the withering of the fig tree was a testimony against those Jews who rejected God's word and His Messiah. However, it is also a warning to all people, in all times, of the importance of not only hearing the God's word, but putting it into action.
On Holy Tuesday, the Parable of the Ten Virgins is read. It tells the story of the five virgins who filled their lamps in preparation for receiving the bridegroom while the other five allowed their lamps to go out and hence were shut out of the marriage feast. This parable is a warning that we must always be prepared to receive our Lord when He comes again. The theme of the day is reinforced by the expostelarion hymn we sing "I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me."
The theme for Holy Wednesday is repentance and forgiveness. We remember the woman, Kassiane, who anointed our Lord in anticipation of His death. Her repentance and love of Christ is the theme of the wonderful "Hymn of Kassiane" which is chanted on this night, reminding us one more time, before "it is too late," that we too may be forgiven if we repent.
The Hymn of Kassiane
The Bridegroom icon
The icon depicts Jesus dressed according to the mockery of the Roman guards just prior to his crucifixion.
- The crowns - The crown of thorns are a symbol of His marriage to the church.
The Hymn of the Bridegroom
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night, and blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching; and again unworthy is he ...