Today is the first full day of Holy Week, the finish race of our lenten marathon. Beginning Sunday night, Orthodox churches started Holy Week with an evening service called Bridegroom Matins (don’t ask me why a Matins service is served in the evening). The service is based upon the parable of the ten virgins who went out to meet the bridegroom with their lamps. Only five were ready with sufficient oil in for the sudden appearance of the bridegroom, Christ. The other five were messing around with unlit lamps – unready souls – scrambling at the last minute to find oil to fuel their light. Matthew 25:13.
You could say that today then is the “namesday” of this blog – Cometh at Midnight. When I started writing an Orthodox blog more than a year and a half ago, the first thing I noticed about other blogs was that they all had catchy names. I spent more time trying to come up with a name then it took to write the first post. I have no idea why the words of the Bridegroom Matins tropar came to my mind, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight…”, but it fairly summed up the way I felt as an Orthodox Christian.
We are all servants of the Lord but it’s the attitude and the way we spend our lives that distinguishes us from each other. Some spend their lives living as if Christ will return at any minute – in prayer, repentance, and charity. Others take a ‘tomorrow will do just fine’ attitude. Life is to be lived now, with as much fun as you can cram into it. Can you imagine their surprise when the Bridegroom returns? But for many of us, our lives aren’t so clear-cut between readiness for our Lord’s return and a life of spiritual neglect. We have days of intensity and attunement to our faith; when we feel like Christ is right their beside us. Other days, the worries of living, the pursuit of our own hobbies, interests, and passions, the busyness of our lives just takes over everything.
I must make a confession now that is contrary to what you’d think about someone who spends so much time writing about faith, religion, and Orthodoxy. Who is fascinated with the religions of the world as they relate to the Orthodox faith, and who loves to tell everyone how much I love the Orthodox Church. My confession? I am not a good Orthodox Christian.
What is a ‘good’ Orthodox Christian? Have I murdered anyone? Well, not physically, but didn’t Christ say we can commit murder in our hearts with a single thought? Have I gone to church and communed regularly? Yes, but did I prepare to receive Communion properly? Do I pray the morning and evening prayers? Do I read the Bible daily? Do I practice charity? Did I fast properly during Lent? No.
It’s Holy Week and I have to admit to myself and to the piddling few readers of this blog, that I’m one of the servants who frittered away Great Lent and am now faced with the fact that the Bridegroom is coming and I am that servant with the unlit lamp. I have spent more time thinking about my Orthodox faith then deeply practicing it.
You want to know the kicker about all this? God still loves me even when I ignore him, even when I procrastinate in my spiritual life. Holy Week is a fresh start, and as the old tent preachers say, ‘the time has come to get yourself right with the Lord’. The Bridegroom tropar is a warning, but it also tells us what we have to do to get right with the Lord. This is our spiritual awakening at the midnight hour – “…rouse yourself, crying: Holy, holy, holy art Thou, O our God.”
Behold, the Bridegroom cometh at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching: and again, unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless. Beware, therefore, O my soul, do not be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given up to death and lest you be shut out of the Kingdom. But rouse yourself crying: Holy, holy, holy, art Thou, O our God. Through the Theotokos, have mercy on us.