April 10, 2017: Matins, Holy Tuesday
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.”
We saw last night that, in St Maximus the Confessor’s view, creation is one of the three incarnations of Christ. This allows us to say that creation isn’t simply a revelation of God but a sacrament of His Presence among us.
So why, if Christ is already among us, do we say in the troparion for Matins, that “ the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night”?
We shouldn’t understand this to mean that Christ is some absent from creation, Nor should we understand the phrase, “the middle of the night,” to be a specific time of day.
Rather what is being expressed here is that Christ’s presence in creation is on His terms. I must be vigilant, I must wait and watch for Christ because He doesn’t come to me on my terms but His. Simply put, Christ surprises me by His presence and so I need to vigilant. It isn’t Christ Who changes but me who needs to change.
As the troparion makes clear, there is nothing passive about our waiting; we are, I am, to be “vigilant” and not “be weighed down by sleep.” The kontakion fills in for us a little more about what this vigilance means:
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.
Far from being a matter of waiting passively, the vigilance which the Lord requires of us, of me, is meant to be fruitful. Christ has endowed each of us with a unique constellation of natural talents and spiritual gifts. Like the wise and shrewd steward in the parable of the talents that we hear will hear latter it the Presanctified Liturgy (Matthew 24:36-51; 25:1-46; 26:1-2), Christ’s expects from me a tangible increase in His investment in me.
To wait and watch, isn’t passive but active. Among other things, and again as we’ll hear in the Gospel at Liturgy, it means not only to care for those in need but to go the margins of society and find those who the world, and sadly often other Christians, forget or ignore.
And if I don’t? If I am a merely passive Christian who buries his talent or am content merely to crying out “Lord, Lord” or merely singing “ “Holy! Holy! Holy are You our God,” while ignore the least of the Lord’s brethren?
Both the Gospel readings for today are clear. In the words of the kontakion, I will “remain outside the bridal chamber of Christ.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, a passive Christian is simply not a Christian in anything other than name. Our vigilance must be fruitful, profitable, it must be active, filled with good works and a willingness to love those whom Christ loved first.