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!