Orthodox Church of the Mother of God

Joy of all the Sorrowful - Mays Landing, NJ (f. 1966)

Holy Thursday - Twelve Gospels

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In making Her response, the Church places particular emphasis on certain of the events of the Passion. One such event, the betrayal of Christ by Judas, receives particularly concentrated attention. Even before any Gospel sections are read the nature of this act, as well as the person who committed it, are brought before us.

When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the wishing of their feet before the supper,
then the impious Judas was darkened, ailing with avarice,
and to the lawless judges he betrays Thee, the righteous judge.
Behold, O lover of money, this man who because of money hanged himself.
Flee from the greedy soul which dared such things against the Master.
O Lord Who art good towards all men, glory to Thee!
The man who committed this terrible deed was no outsider or stranger. He was one of the original twelve. He, too, shared in the great moments of the Master's earthly ministry. He, too, had the full opportunity to learn at the feet of the Teacher. He, too, was there at the washing of the feet. But he refused to understand. We hear this same contrast repeated in rapid succession in the hymnography following the first Gospel reading.
Because of the raising of Lazarus,
O Lord Who lovest mankind,
The Hebrew children cried "Hosanna" to Thee,
But Judas the Transgressor was unwilling to understand.

At Thy supper, O Christ God,
Thou didst announce to Thy disciples,
"One of you will betray me."
But Judas the Transgressor was unwilling to understand.
At the washing of their feet, O Christ God,
Thou didst command Thy disciples:
"Do as you have seen me do."
But Judas the Transgressor was unwilling to understand.

"Keep watch and pray,
Lest you be tempted,"
Thou didst say to Thy disciples, O our God,
But Judas the Transgressor was unwilling to understand.
(Antiphon 3)

The Church stands in bewilderment before the evil of Judas' deed.

How could Judas, who was once Thy disciple,
Plan to betray Thee?
That treacherous and unrighteous man deceitfully ate with Thee
And went to the priests and said:
"What will you give me if I deliver to you Him who abolished the law and profaned the Sabbath?"
O long-suffering Lord, glory to Thee!

(Kaihisma, Tone 8)
We seek a motive for this outrageous act.
What caused you to betray the Savior, O Judas?
Did He expel you from the ranks of the Apostles?
Did He take from you the gift of healing?
Did He send you from the table while taking supper with the others?
Did He wash their feet and pass you by?
How have you forgotten such good things?
Your ingratitude is notorious,
But His boundless long-suffering and great mercy are proclaimed to all.

(Kaihisma, Tone 7)

The motive is exposed in Judas' avarice, his greedy love of money. The opening Troparion speaks of his "ailing with avarice," and his "greedy soul." In a broader sense, however, the hymnography links Judas' avarice with a general love of the cares of this life and warns us not to follow his path.

Let us offer our pure senses to Christ.
As His friends let us sacrifice our lives for His sake.
Let us not be weighed down by earthly careslike Judas,
But let us cry in the hidden chambers of our heart:
"Our Father, who art in heaven, deliver us from evil."

(Anliphon I)

Judas is not alone in his treacherous act of betraying the Master. He conspires with the lawless council of the priests and leaders of the people. Immediately after the first Gospel, we sing:

The rulers of the people have assembled against the Lord and His Christ.
Judas hastened to the lawless scribes and said:
What will you give me to betray Him to you.
For thirty pieces of silver And a treacherous kiss,
O Lord, The Jews sought to kill Thee,
But Judas the Transgressor was unwilling to understand.

(Antiphons I, 2, 3)

Again, utilizing the technique of contrast, the hymnography compares the wonderful works of Christ with the evil of His people:

Thus says the Lord to the Jews:
My people, what have I done to you,
Or how have I offended you?
To your blind, I gave sight, your lepers I cleansed,
The paralytic I raised from his bed.
My people, what have I done to you,
And how have you repaid me?
Instead of manna, gall; instead of water, vinegar:
Instead of loving me, you nail me to the cross.
I can bear no more. I shall call the Gentiles mine.
They will glorify me with the Father and the Spirit,
And I shall give them life eternal.

(Anliphon 12)

The betrayal is the deed of Judas and those with whom he conspired. The love of money and the pleasures of this world are exposed as the motive behind this terrible deed. A judgment stands before us: how deep is our own attachment to the things of this world, and how willing are we to sacrifice them in the name of Christ?

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