Significance of this Service
"Behold the Bridegroom Cometh in the Midst of the Night..."
(The service is MATINS3 [Morning Prayers] of Great Monday and is sung by anticipation on Palm Sunday evening.)
Monday of Holy Week (sung by anticipation, now on Palm Sunday Evening) commemorates the blessed and noble Joseph and the fig tree which was cursed and withered by the Lord. The withering of the fig tree was a miracle of special symbolism, since the tree had leaves, but no fruit. It is symbolic of the many people who claim ethical and religious identity, but who in reality have empty lives that yield no fruit. This was also the case with some of the Pharisees of that period. Jesus cursed the tree: "May no fruit ever come from you again!" (Matt. 21:19) The reference to the story of the virtuous Joseph of the Old Testament (Genesis 37-41) is made only for contrast, since the life of Joseph was a model of propriety and sincere observance of ethical principles.
On this evening, we begin with the Hymn of the Bridegroom, "Behold the Bridegroom comes in the midst of the night...beware, therefore, O my soul, lest thou be borne down in sleep...and lest thou be shut out from the Kingdom..." The canticle hymn also has a symbolic exhortation: "I see thy bridal hall adorned, O my Savior, and I have no wedding garment...O giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul and save me." At this time, the solemn procession of the Icon of Christ-Bridegroom takes place around the church. The people, anticipating the sufferings of Christ, sing: "Thy sublime sufferings, on this day, shine upon the world as a light of salvation."
The Gospel reading during this service is Matthew 21:18-43. It mentions that "the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, 'By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?'" (v. 23) They sought to have Christ accuse Himself in answering this question.