Bridegroom Matins is a service specific to the first four evenings of Holy Week (though it is often omitted on Holy Wednesday in favor of the service of Holy Unction) and commemorates the last days in the earthly life of the Lord. Incorporated into these services is the theme of the first three days of Holy Week; which is the last teachings of Christ to his disciples. As such, these services incorporate readings and hymns inspiring this theme. The mood of the services is to experience sorrow and to feel Christ’s voluntary submission to His passions and highlight the purpose behind the evil that is about to take place against the Lord. The atmosphere is one of mourning (for sins) and is symbolic of the shame the Christian should feel for the Fall of Adam and Eve, the depths of hell, the lost Paradise and the absence of God. The vestments of the Priest and the altar clothes are black or deep purple to symbolise and enhance the atmosphere of mourning and remembrance of sins. The main emphasis of the Bridegroom Service is metanoia and each service has its own particular theme on repentance and watchfulness. One of its primary features is its troparion:
Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant He shall find vigilant; but unworthy is he whom he shall find neglectful. Beware therefore, O my soul, lest you be weighed down by sleep, lest you be given over to death and be closed out from the kingdom; but rise up crying out: “Holy! Holy! Holy are You our God; through the intercessions of the Theotokos, have mercy on us.”
On Holy Monday, the Blessed Joseph, the son of Jacob the Patriarch, is commemorated because he is 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, the Lord was rejected, betrayed by his own, and sold into the slavery of death and like Joseph forgave and spared his brothers during the famine when they came to him, so too, Jesus Christ offers himself as a sacrifice and forgives all those who come to him in faith.
The Gospel reading for the day is of the Barren Fig Tree, which Christ cursed and withered because it bore no fruit. The fig tree is representative of those who have heard God’s word, but who fail to bear the fruits of faith. Originally the withering of the fig tree was a testimony against those Jews who rejected God’s word and his Messiah. 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.
Monday evening also includes this kontakion:
Being mindful of the hour of the end, O my soul, and fearing because of the cutting down of the fig tree, labor diligently with the talent that was given thee, O hapless one, and be watchful and cry: Let us not remain outside the bridal chamber of Christ.