The “Little Services” of the Church

Josephus Flavius of Byzantine, TX writes about this service he attended Tuesday night of Holy Week:

One thing any pious person will tell you, is that the most beautiful and didactic liturgical material is to be found in the weekday services of the Church. In the less bustling services where fewer people gather together in prayer the hymnography and readings have much to teach and do it with ineffable beauty. People are visibly moved by the experience. Last night, I was greatly moved by the Praises and Aposticha (Greek: Άπόστιχα’/ Slavonic: ‘stikhíry na stikhóvne’ are a set of hymns [stichera] accompanied by psalm verses [stichos] that are chanted towards the end of Vespers and Matins).

If you will permit a long posting, the below tells a story and does so with a deft interplay of the actions of Judas and Mary of Bethany. I hope you can take a few minutes to read it.


The Praises

v. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His exceeding greatness! (Ps 150:2)

A harlot recognized You as God, O Son of the Virgin.
With tears equal to her past deeds, she besought You, weeping:
“Loose my debt, as I have loosed my hair!
Love the woman who, though justly hated, loves You!
Then with the publicans will I proclaim You,//
O Benefactor, Who love mankind.”

Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! (Ps 150:3)

The harlot mingled precious myrrh with her tears.
She poured it on Your most pure feet and kissed them.
At once You justified her.
O Lord, Who suffered for our sakes,//
forgive us also, and save us!

Praise Him with timbrel and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! (Ps 150:4)

As the sinful woman was bringing her offering of myrrh,
the disciple was scheming with lawless men.
She rejoiced in pouring out her precious gift.
He hastened to sell the priceless One.
She recognized the Master, but Judas parted from Him.
She was set free, but Judas was enslaved to the Enemy.
How terrible his slothfulness!
How great her repentance!
O Savior, Who suffered for our sakes,//
grant repentance to us also, and save us!

Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Ps 150:5)

Oh, the wretchedness of Judas!
He saw the harlot kiss the footsteps of Christ,
but deceitfully he contemplated the kiss of betrayal.
She loosed her hair while he bound himself with wrath.
He offered the stench of wickedness instead of myrrh,
for envy cannot distinguish value.
Oh, the wretchedness of Judas!//
Deliver our souls from it, O God!

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

The sinful woman ran to buy the precious myrrh
with which to anoint her Savior.
She cried to the merchant: “Give me myrrh,//
that I may anoint Him Who has cleansed all my sins!”

now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The woman who was engulfed in sin
found in You a haven of salvation.
She poured out myrrh with her tears and cried to You:
“Behold the One Who brings repentance to sinners!
Rescue me from the tempest of sin, O Master,//
through Your great mercy!”

The Aposticha

Today Christ comes to the house of the Pharisee.
A sinful woman crawls to His feet and cries:
“Look at me who am engulfed in sin,
in despair because of my evil deeds!
But, in Your goodness, do not despise me!
Grant me forgiveness of my evil deeds, O Lord,//
and save me!”

v: Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad as many days as You have afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil! Let Your work be manifest to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children! (Ps 89/90:14)

The harlot spread out her hair to You, O Master;
Judas spread out his hands to lawless men:
she in order to receive forgiveness;
he in order to receive some silver.
We cry to You, Who were sold for us and yet set us free://
“O Lord, glory to You!”

v: Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands; yea, establish the work of our hands! (Ps 89/90:17)

The corrupt and filthy woman
drew near to You, O Savior.
She poured out her tears on Your feet
and thus announced Your Passion.
How can I gaze on You, O Master?
Yet You came to save the harlot.
Raise me from the depths, for I am dead in sin,
as You raised Lazarus from the tomb after four days.
Accept me in my misery, O Lord,//
and save me!

v: I will thank You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wondrous works. (Ps 9:1)

Despairing for her life, and in despair because of her deeds,
the woman came bearing myrrh to You and cried:
“O Son of the Virgin,
though I am a harlot, do not cast me aside!
O Joy of the Angels,
do not despise my tears!
As You did not reject me as a sinner,//
accept me now as a penitent, in Your great mercy!”

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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