Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Last is First; First is Last

One of my favorite services tonight: Holy Wednesday Bridegroom Matins, where the repentant harlot who anoints Christ's feet is contrasted with Judas. She who was furthest away from divine Love is brought close, and he who walked with the Master became the ultimate tool of the Evil One. Señor, ten piedad de nosotros...Lord, have mercy on us...
The harlot approached thee, O Lover of mankind, pouring out on thy feet costly perfume mixed with tears; and at thy command she was redeemed from the stench of her sins. But the ungrateful disciple, though he was touched by thy grace, rejected it and defiled himself with mire, selling thee for love of money. O Christ, glory to thy tender mercy.

O Merciful One, to thee the harlot cried out wailing; she wiped ardently thy pure feet with her hair, deeply sighing: O my God Cast me not from thee and despise me not, but receive me in repentance and save me, for thou alone art the lover of mankind.

Deceitful Judas, in his love for money, contrived a deceptive plan to betray thee, O Lord, Treasury of life. Given to strong drink, he ran to the Jews and said to the transgressors of the law: "What will you give me, if I betray him to you to be crucified?"

The prodigal woman suddenly appeared chaste, despising the works of shameful sin, and the lust of the body, reflecting upon her great disgrace, and the condemnation of punishment, that harlots and prodigals will endure. Of them I am the first and I am dismayed, but foolishly I persist in my evil habits. But the woman who was a prostitute, filled with fear, and ran crying to the redeemer: O Lover of mankind and merciful one, deliver me from the mire of my deeds.

O Christ, the woman poured precious perfume upon thy royal, divine and awesome head. She touched thy pure feet with her impure hands and cried aloud: “O all works of the Lord, praise the Lord and exalt him to all ages”

O blind and implacable avarice! How have you forgotten what Christ taught you, that the soul is more valuable than the world! For in despair, O betrayer, you have hanged thyself. O Christ our God, sapre our souls and save us.

The prostitute blended precious perfume with tears. She poured it upon thy most pure feet as she kissed them, and thou at once hast proclaimed her righteous. Grant us forgiveness, O Savior, who suffered for us; and save us.

O misery of Judas! When he saw the harlot kissing thy feet, he was deceitfully thinking of how he would betray thee with a kiss. She loosed the braids of her hair, but he was full of rage, bearing in place of perfume the stench of evil; for envy does not know how to care for its own good. O misery of Judas! From this deliver our souls, O God.

As the sinful woman was offering myrrh, the disciple was making terms with the transgressors of the Law. She rejoiced in pouring out what was precious, but he attempted to sell him who is priceless. She acknowledged the Lord, but he separated himself from the Master. She was set free, but Judas became the slave of the enemy. How terrible is the indolence! How great is the repentance! Grant me this also, O Savior who suffered for us, and save us.

Today Christ comes to the house of the Pharisee, and a sinful woman approaches him, falling down at his feet and crying out: “Look at me, I am plunged into sin, I am filled with despair because of my sins, yet I am not rejected by thy goodness.” O Lord, Grant me forgiveness of sins and save me.

The prostitute spread out her hair before thee, O Master, while Judas spread out his hands to the transgressors of the Law; she to receive forgiveness, he to receive the silver. Wherefore, we cry aloud to thee who wast sold and hast set us free: O Lord, glory to thee.

An evil-smelling and muddy woman approached thee shedding tears at thy feet, O Savior, and foretelling thy Passion. “O Master, how can I look straight at thee? Yet thou thyself didst come to save the prostitute. I am dead: As thou hast raised Lazarus after four days from the tomb, raise me from the depths of death. Accept me, O Lord, wretched as I am, and save me.

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins perceived thy divinity and received the rank of the ointment-bearing women; and with mourning she brought myrrh to thee before thy burial. She said: “Woe is me, for I am surrounded with a gloomy and moonless night, full of lustful passion. Accept the fountains of my tears, for thou gatherest into clouds the water of the sea. Incline to the groaning of my heart, for in thine inexpressible self-abasement thou hast bowed the heavens. I will kiss thy most pure feet and wipe them with the locks of my hair, those feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise, and hid herself in fear. Who can search out the multitude of my sins and the depth of thy judgments, O Savior of my soul? In thy boundless mercy despise me not, thy handmaid."

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