Wednesday: A Day of Love and Betrayal2018-04-02T10:32:46+00:00

This is another day of extremes. In this one day, we read of the extreme love of Mary of Bethany—how much she sacrificed her livelihood to anoint Him for His burial. At the same time, we witness the betrayal of one of Christ’s disciples that He chose, raised and taught for over three years.

Hour Themes

Bethany was just over the hill from Jerusalem. A few weeks earlier, Christ had come at Martha and Mary’s request to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead. After this great event, He had avoided Jerusalem because the Jewish authorities became determined to arrest Him.

Christ spent the entire day alone in Bethany before the great day of redemption. Perhaps the family had tried to hide Christ secretly, for they realized that there was danger in harboring this wanted Man. As the Jews separated the Passover lamb until its slaughter day, Jesus rested in Bethany during that day before offering Himself to be slaughtered.

Martha had expressed her gratitude to Christ for resurrecting her brother from the dead by preparing a meal for Him. But Mary, the less conventional sister, now takes it upon herself to perform an unthinkable act of love. She first takes a very expensive flask of perfume. This alabaster flask, alone, was precious. So much so that once used, it could never be used again because the neck of the flask had to be broken to release the perfume. Even more precious was the perfume, harboring a special aroma worth fortunes that came from the Himalayas. It was worth 300 dinari—a family could have lived for a year on the price of this perfume. Mary goes even further. She does not even allow a servant to wash His feet, but personally anoints Him out of her love and humility—exactly what Christ would teach His disciples within 24 hours!

To continue along the Paschal theme, there is joy within sadness and sadness in the midst of joy in these very two stories. The anointing of Christ’s feet was a joyous act of thanksgiving for bringing the dead alive, while at the same time a foreshadowing of Christ’s death and burial. As they celebrate the welcoming of their brother, they were saying goodbye to their Savior.

Judas had criticized her for wasting the cost of this perfume on Christ by saying it could have been used for the poor. But Christ encourages her work and service for Him, for she had done this for His burial. Mary gave out of her heart; Judas had criticized her out of his selfishness. Mary sacrificed her life and all her money for Christ; Judas stole from the moneybox and betrayed Him for 30 silver coins. Mary acted out of loyalty, Judas out of betrayal. He thought of money, while forgetting about the Lord. Mary is serving the poor through the Lord; Judas is preventing and discouraging service to both.

Judas also sought opportunity to betray Jesus. According to church tradition, kisses and greetings are forbidden from the First Hour of the Eve of Thursday (Wednesday night) until the end of the Divine Liturgy on Bright Saturday. This is to remember the betrayal of Christ by Judas with a kiss.

The prophecies continue along the story of Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. In the first hour prophesy, the people are complaining that there is no water to drink. After we see their lack of faith, the remaining prophecies remind us of how faithful God was to them in their escape from Egypt. In the third hour, we read of the first instance where God the Israelites a guides His people with a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. In the Sixth Hour, we are reminded of how the children of Israel miraculously escaped from the hands of Pharaoh and his army when crossing the Red Sea. Despite all of these blessings and rescues, the people continue to complain that they don’t have figs, vines, fruit or water in the prophesy of the ninth hour.

The Events

The Lord spends the day in Bethany. He left the temple on Tuesday evening with no intent of coming back. On Tuesday, Jesus said to the Jews “your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord’” (Matt. 23:38,39). Both Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9 tell us about the jar of spikenard that was spread on Jesus head. The betrayal of Judas the Iscariot, including his agreement with the chief priests on the price he would get, is narrated in the four gospels, (Matt. 16:14), (Mark 14:10,11), (Luke 12:3-6) and (John 13:1-3).

First Hour

The first prophecy is from Moses. “All the congregation of Israel left the wilderness of the Sinai Desert according to God’s commandment. They went to Rephidim. There was no water for them to drink and the people revolted against Moses asking for water… Moses told them: “Why are you blaming me and why tempting God?” And he called the place ‘Massah’ for the chiding of Israel and tempting God when they were asking: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex. 17:1-7).

The children of Israel tempted the Lord, saying “Is the Lord among us or not?”. We leave room for sin when we begin asking if God is among us and begin doubting His presence. The Gospel tells us about the chief priests gathering and consulting to seize the Lord (John 11:46). Had those murderers realized that the Lord was among them, would they do what they did? Would Judas the Iscariot set a price for Jesus, had he known that the Lord was there?

The second Prophecy is from Proverbs 3:5-14. “For the merchandise of wisdom is better than the merchandise of silver and the gain of gold” (Proverbs 3:14). Judas should have reflected on this great piece of wisdom, as he sold Jesus. We too should recall these words when tempted to betray Jesus.

The first lesson of that day is to trust that Jesus is our God, even on the Cross, where He doesn’t have the image of a Savior. He is our Lord even if “there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Is. 53:2).

Third Hour

The first Prophecy is from Moses. “When Pharaoh let the Israelites go, God did not lead them towards Palestine… but He directed them in the wilderness towards the Red Sea and He walked in front of them in the shape of a column of clouds in daytime, and a column of light in the night showing them the way” (Exodus 13:17).

The story of the crossing of the Israelites is related in the readings of the Sixth hour, the first prophecy is from Exodus 14: “… the angel of God that was walking in front of them, went behind them with the column of clouds entering between the soldiers of the Egyptians and those of Israel”.

God carefully protects His people. As the enemy approaches, He interferes, going between His people and the enemy, in order to save them. In contrast, Man (represented in Judas) interferes between his Savior and the Chief Priests’ forces not as peacemaker, but as a traitor, delivering God and denying His covenant.

The second prophecy is from Joshua 22:7-18. We should be reminded of the Lord’s words about His unfaithful disciple “it were good for that man if he had never been born” (Mark 14:21).

The Third Hour ends with Solomon indicating that the source of evil is in the impure heart (Sirach 20:3-18). This message goes along with the Psalm and Gospel of this hour. Psalm 40:1,6 tells us “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me, and heard my cry… Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.”

Sixth Hour

The Psalm speaks of the conspiracy against the Lord. “They have consulted together with one consent; they are confederate against thee” (Psalm 83:5). The Gospel then condemns the traitor and shows that his betrayal was not an accidental sin. Rather, Judas’ nature was perverse and his behavior originated from his wicked heart. We are reminded of the incident that happened on Saturday when Judas objected to the 300 dinars wasted in the ointment the woman had spread on Jesus feet. Judas suggests that the money could have been given to the poor. He didn’t speak out of compassion but because he was a thief (John 12:1-8).

This same gospel is repeated in the Third Hour of the evening readings, the vigil of Thursday. It is meant to remind us that the disciple delivered his Master. Having opened his heart to evil, Judas committed sin after sin, denying the covenant, stealing the treasure and finally delivering God. He, who sins in one of the commandments, has sinned in all of them. Sin is the leaven that grows in the heart, culminating in the betrayal of the Lord and the denial of faith. May God deliver us from such fall.

Ninth Hour

The first Prophecy, from Ex. 24:1-9, tells the story of Isaac’s marriage. Abraham sent his servant to choose a wife for Isaac “from his country and his kinsmen”. The prophecy reminds us that the Church, Christ’s bride, belongs to the bridegroom, Christ. He came in the flesh to choose us as His bride. He says “… they are not from this world as Myself, am not of this world either” (John 17:15). And the second Prophecy from Solomon in Proverbs 1:10 says “My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.” … continues the reference to Judas.

At the same time that Jesus’ disciple was selling Him for thirty pieces of silver, the woman was washing His feet with love. The woman who anointed Jesus’ head is the symbol of the soul making amendment to God for the treason of the disciple. We pray that we may wash Jesus’ feet with tears of repentance, like the woman cited in the Gospel.

Hour Themes

Morning

First Hour – After the people complained to Moses for water, God gave Moses the rod to strike the rock (Exodus); trust God and honor him do not despise His correction (Proverbs); Christ walks openly among the Jews as they plot amongst themselves to kill Him. (John).

Third Hour – The Jews escape Pharaoh (Exodus); descriptions of a fool (Sirach); Satan entering into Judas during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Luke)

Sixth Hour – Moses escaping from Pharaoh crossing the Red Sea (Exodus); discipline of the mouth (Sirach); fragrant oil

Ninth Hour – Abraham blesses Isaac (Genesis), people continue to complain

Eleventh Hour – The prophesy in Isaiah speaks of the Lord’s promise that His people shall “pass over” the storm (of sin and death). Homily of St. Severus emphasises the Divine Judgment of God that no one can question or avoid. The gospel discusses the distress of the Lord, the burden He begins to endure. He is aware of the death He must die for us.

Evening

First Hour – Prophesy of Ezekiel in the inner court (prophesy). Christ explains how He willingly has laid down His life for all, as the commandment He has received from the Father (John). The Crucifixion is not by force, but out of love—that is why the hypocrites could not understand this (exposition)

Third Hour – God tells Amos that even when He has blessed His people, they had ignored Him (Amos). Mary anoints Christ at Bethany (Mark)

Sixth Hour – The Lord declares vengeance upon Tyre after instructing His servants and warning His prophets (Amos). People are unable to fully accept Christ and hardened their hearts because they loved the praise of men more than God and feared exclusion from the synagogue (John)

Ninth Hour – These readings again present the amazing contrast between the unbelieving, stubborn, proud Pharisees that attempt to stone Christ; and the patient, wise Saviour

Eleventh Hour – Finally, Christ explains that He is the Divine Light that separates light from darkness, truth from trickery, wisdom from confusion. But they were still stubborn and did not understand the way of the Lord, as the people explained in the prophesy of Jeremiah

Covenant Thursday