Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Byzantine Stichera

Christ the BridegroomStichera (singular is sticheron) are short hymns that are sung, typically, between the strophes of Psalms during the Divine Liturgy and the Divine Office. They are a beautiful expression of the faith and contain tremendous insights and food for meditation. Today during Matins (or ὄρθρος, which is equivalent to Morning Prayer in the Latin Rite) there were several beautiful stichera that I wanted to share. I selected several from throughout the service. Please take the time to meditate on these beautiful words.

Behold, the Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night. Blessed is the servant He shall find awake. But the one He shall find neglectful will not be worthy of Him. Beware, therefore, O my soul! Do not fall into deep slumber, lest you be delivered to death and the door of the kingdom be closed to you. Watch instead, and cry out: Holy, Holy, Holy are you, O God. Through the intercession of the Mother of God, have mercy on us.

How shall I enter the splendor of your saints, because of my unworthiness? If I dare to enter into your bridal chamber, my garment shall give me away; for I do not have a wedding garment, and the angels shall cast me out. Purify my soul, O Lord, and in your goodness, save me.

I see your bridal chamber completely engulfed with light, O my Savior, and I do not have a wedding garment to enter and enjoy your brightness; fill the garment of my soul with light, and save me, O Lord, save me.

O Bridegroom, whose grace surpasses all human beauty, You invite us to the spiritual feast in your palace. Strip me of the coarse garment of my sin, and make me a partaker of your Passion. Clothe me in the glorious adornment of your beauty. In your mercy, accept me as a luminous guest at the banquet in your kingdom.

Here are a few from Vespers. These struck me very deeply.

All the arrows of the Enemy have pierced my overburdened heart; it now lies in the tomb of laziness, hardened as the rock of the tomb. But You, O Savior, who by the wood of your Cross have given life to the captives in Hades, awaken me and give me life, that in fear I may glorify your divinity.

I have always loved the treasure of my deadly pleasures, and with the aid of the Evil One, without conscience, I have delighted in trivialities. I have disregarded my groaning spirit as another Lazarus, and I hunger for food from on high. Save me, O Word of God, from the threatening fire, that I may glorify your mercy and your love for humankind.

Clothed in the God-woven purple of freedom and in the fine linen of incorruption, you have mocked your own dignity, O my soul. You have sought pleasure and wealth in sin, looking down on your friends as the rich man on Lazarus the poor. That you may not be chastised with him, become poor in spirit and cry to the Lord who became poor for your sake: O Lord, who wore the purple of mockery before your crucifixion and who were stripped and crucified for my sake, grant me the robe of thy kingdom and deliver me from eternal shame.

We hope and pray that you would have a blessed holy week. May the grace poured out during this Great and Holy Week prepare your hearts for the joy of the glorious Resurrection!!

(The Icon is called Christ the Bridegroom.)

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