The Triodion began with the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, when we observe one man realizing his brokenness and need for God’s mercy. Last Sunday we encountered the Prodigal Son who sinned but repented and received the embrace of his father. On this third Sunday in the sequence the Church offers us a caution.
Known as Judgment Sunday the theme of this day reminds us that at Christ’s Second and Glorious Coming he comes as a Merciful but also a Righteous Judge. Yes, indeed, we will have to face Him as the judge of our lives, and this is fearful. In the gospel according to St. John 5:27 we learn that the Son also has the authority to execute judgment. Again in verse 30 the Lord Jesus states “as I hear I judge and my judgment is righteous.” Truly, our lives will be evaluated and a decision will have to be made. It’s a fearful reality and we pray that it is type of fear which is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is the beginning of understanding (Proverbs 9:10). The Oikos of Matins expresses our inner thoughts “...I am frightened at the accusations of my conscience…”. Such a fearsome experience happens to us each day because we cannot escape our own conscience.
The punishment for a life of godless deeds is described as a river of fire which we ask the Merciful Judge to forgive. In the Kontakion of Matins we ask Him to come to our rescue and to count us worthy to stand at His Right Hand. We head into the final week of preparation before the start of Great Lent and the next Sunday brings the consolation for our fears of this Sunday.
Matins, a preparatory service to the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days, is packed with instructive hymns and readings. Matins is a complex service of the liturgical life of the Church, especially because it changes its format dramatically from weekdays to Sundays and on the Great Feasts. Following Psalm 50(51), also known as the Repentance Psalm, the cantor sings a set of three hymns, which change completely for Triodion and Great Lent.
The first hymn asks the Lord Jesus Christ, addressing Him by the descriptor Giver of Life, to open the gates of repentance within us. This is a striking statement considering that repentance requires us to take action; rather than something being done on our behalf. Indeed, the next segment of the hymn specifies that we, of our own will, hurry to enter the Lord’s Temple in order to bring the temples of our bodies to His. Immediately after, the hymn has a confessional nature because it presents the recognition that our bodies are defiled by our sinfulness. The hymn closes with our prayer asking the compassionate and merciful Christ to cleanse the temples of our bodies so that we may be united to His Temple.
This poetic imagery of the hymn alternates between the proclamation of Christ’s purity and the realization of our need for purity in order to be one with God. Admission of illness is the first step of healing and this preparatory hymn for Great Lent helps us internalize this clarity for our minds and souls. The imagery is further beautified when we realize that we bring our physical bodies to the physical temple of Christ’s Body and in turn Christ’s Body and Blood enter into the temples of our bodies at the Eucharist. How Awesome our Lord is!
At first glance this word is just another word originating from the Greek language and is used commonly in liturgical life of the Church. However, this word has taken on a number of meanings especially among North American Orthodox Christians.
We use the word “Triodion” to refer to a particular liturgical book used primarily by the cantors but also the clergy. This book contains all the special hymns and readings for the variety of services during the period of three weeks of preparation before, the six weeks of Great Lent, and (sometimes) the holy and great Week leading up to Pascha.
The second use of the word is in reference to a period of time, but that itself is confusing. Some people use the word Triodion to mean the entire nine weeks of preparation and Great Lent. Others prefer to use the term only in reference to the three weeks before the start of Great Lent. It’s difficult to call any of the above practices incorrect, while simultaneously recognizing that more preciseness may be desirable.
The word itself stems from the word “three” in Greek and it was originally used to identify that in the service of Matins the Canon is composed in three odes each. This specific rubric of our Matins service is prescribed throughout the entire period of nine weeks.
However, the most important aspect is to understand and internalize is not the detailed meaning of a term rather that this brings us into a period of time which prepares at first our minds, then bodies, and all together our entire being for the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. Each Sunday has a theme which serves as a new rung on the ladder that raises us toward Pascha. We begin the Triodion this Sunday with the commemoration of the Publican and Pharisee! Blessed Triodion!
The feast of the Meeting of the Lord celebrated every year on February 2, 40 days after Christ’s birth, instills in us a beautiful image because of our tradition of Churching Prayers for newborn babies. It’s one of the most joyous occasions for a priest also, and it is a beautiful sight for the entire congregation as the priest walks down the center of the church all the way to the Altar holding the baby, presenting him to the Lord and the community and praying the beautiful prayers. We can imagine this with the baby Jesus in the arms of the Righteous Simeon at the Temple in Jerusalem with the Prophetess Ana as witness.
The central teaching of this event is that Simeon and Ana were waiting in expectation for the Anointed One of God who would bring peace and comfort to the people of Israel. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would live until the Christ was to be shown him. The righteous old man immediately recognized the baby Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the One sent to console the people of Israel. Likewise, Ana recognized Him, the Anointed One, and proclaimed Him to the people as the redemption for Israel. Many others of their time were looking for the consolation of their nation but their search was fruitless because their hearts wanted an earthly consolation that would save them from their Roman occupation or the struggle of everyday life. Simeon and Ana immediately recognized their source of redemption and consolation in the baby Jesus because their hearts desired a divine redemption and the consolation of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Let us wait in expectation for the consolation of God’s people through heavenly gifts, not temporary earthly accomplishments.