The Bridegroom Icon

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Bridegroom Matins compromise the first three services of Holy Week.  The services are centered around Christ’s parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25.  During the service we hear these haunting words.

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 whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be overcome with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom. But rouse thyself and cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art Thou, O God, through the Mother of God, have mercy on us.

At the front of the church is placed the haunting Bridegroom icon – an image of the Suffering Servant and Wounded Lover.  It is a picture of divine humiliation.  The Bridegroom is sorrowful not for himself but for the world He will leave.  He is at peace in his humiliation – intent to endure sinners blows to the end.   He wears the wedding garments of humility, suffering and love.  He wears them as the Divine Lover who has been spurned by the one he came to woo.  Here He stands – beaten, bruised, and rejected yet full of love.  

How do we respond to such an icon?  How do we deal with divine love beyond words?  What is our response to the Bridegroom?  We think about our wedding garment.  We think about our deeds?  What will we have to offer Him?  Thus, we cry,

Thy bridal chamber, O my Savior, do I behold all adorned, and a garment I have not that I may enter therein. Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light, and save me.

Illumine the garment of my soul, O Giver of Light.  What are we asking Christ for in this poetic canon?  We are asking that our wedding garments may mirror His.  We are confessing our brokenness and asking that our soul may be clothed in the very acts of humility and love that marked the Savior.  As Christ descended into humility and suffering, we are beseeching Him for the grace to make our own descent.  As He died for the world, we ask for the endurance to die to ourselves so that we might truly live.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

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