Holy Week begins on Monday following Palm Sunday and ends with the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday morning. Most Christians recognize Holy Week by one or more of the days called the Paschal Triduum. They include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. But few outside of Eastern Catholocism may know about Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday.
The names for this day come from either of the two events it remembers. First is the anointing of Jesus at Bethany. Second is the deal Judas Iscarius makes with the Chief Priests to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
“Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.” (Matthew 26:6–16, ESV)
Because of human nature, I sometimes think we spend too much time talking about Judas. We love scoundrels. However, today is holy because of the act of faith, hope, and love by one woman. I confess to being as pragmatically oriented as the disciples. Oh, how I need to learn the devotion of this woman.
Sometime in the first half of the Ninth Century, there was a Byzantine abbess and nun named Kassia. She was a devout woman of God who wrote poetry and music. One of her hymns is still used in the liturgy on Holy Wednesday in the Byzantine Church. I include it here because it helps me to reflect on the anointing of Jesus and allows me to worship him.
- Sensing Thy divinity, O Lord,
- a woman of many sins,
- takes it upon herself
- to become a myrrh-bearer
- and in deep mourning
- brings before Thee fragrant oil
- in anticipation of Thy burial; crying:
- “Woe to me! What night falls on me,
- what dark and moonless madness
- of wild-desire, this lust for sin.
- Take my spring of tears
- Thou Who drawest water from the clouds,
- bend to me, to the sighing of my heart,
- Thou who bendedst down the heavens
- in Thy secret Incarnation,
- I will wash Thine immaculate feet with kisses
- and wipe them dry with the locks of my hair;
- those very feet whose sound Eve heard
- at the dusk in Paradise and hid herself in terror.
- Who shall count the multitude of my sins
- or the depth of Thy judgment,
- O Saviour of my soul?
- Do not ignore thy handmaiden,
- O Thou whose mercy is endless”.
- (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Troparion accessed 04/08/2020, 10:58 am.)