On the evening of Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week, following the Bridegroom Matins for Holy Monday, Fr. Matthew Howell gives a short reflection using as a basis a passage from The Eternal Today by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou of St. John the Baptist Monastery in Essex, England. He highlights the epistle from Philippians 4:4-9 that was read at the Palm Sunday liturgy as the key to meeting the Bridegroom, Christ, at the Bridal Chamber.
Holy and Great Monday
“‘Behold the Bridegroom cometh’ (Mt. 25:6), and blessed is the servant who will be found worthy to receive His saving visitation and put on an incorruptible crown.
The Church prays in these days that no one remain outside of the Bridal Chamber of Christ, where the awesome union of the heart of man with the Spirit of God takes place.
Saint Paul gives us the key to the Bridal Chamber, saying that the Lord is night: we must fill our mind and heart with all those things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue and praise (cf. Phil. 4:8). Such care with regard to the things we allow to exist in our hearts is befitting in view of the One Whom we are encountering there, namely, Him Who for the sake of our salvation went up to Golgotha to undergo suffering unto death.
Only His undying love is able to heal the wretched desolation of our ingratitude.”
–The Eternal Today, by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, page 87
At that time, as Jesus was returning to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea, ‘ it will be done. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. ” And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you a question; and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven, ‘ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men, ‘ we are afraid of the multitude; for all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir, ‘ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him. Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.