|33 -MEOCCA BRIDEGROOM MATINS: THE WEDDING GARMENT, April 9, 2023|
Shortly, we will venerate the Icon and sing the beautiful Hymn of Light: ‘Thy Bridal Chamber I see adorned, O my Savior; and I have no wedding garment that I may enter! O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul and save me!’ What is the Bridal Chamber? What is the wedding garment?
Do you know that your Holy Baptism, when you were united to Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection, is the Spiritual Marriage of the Church? Raised from the Font, the heavens were opened to you. You were clothed in the Robe of Light, which was Christ Himself. This is the ‘wedding garment.’ When you drew near the Chalice in the fear of God, with faith and love, you partook of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb.
From the moment of your baptism, when heaven was opened to you, have there not been moments in the worship of the Church when the beauty of the Church’s hymns and prayers, the fragrance of her incense, the serene countenance of the holy icons gazing down on you, the spiritual nobility and majesty of the Divine Liturgy, seized your soul and opened to you, if only for an instant, a spiritual Beauty not of this world, and there stirred within you, as it did in Solomon, a visceral love for that Beauty and a longing to make the Wisdom of God your spouse? (Wisd 8.2)
Might this be a vision of the bridal chamber that was opened to you at your baptism?
‘Thy Bridal Chamber I see adorned, O my Savior! And I have no wedding garment that I may enter!’ As Lazarus was clothed in grave clothes, soiled and stinking from his being four days in the tomb, do we not see, if ever a vision of the bridal chamber is opened to us, that we have no wedding garment? Our garments are soiled and stinking grave clothes.
The wedding garment that clothed us in our baptism is Christ the LORD. The LORD, says the Psalmist, is my life and my salvation. And St Paul says, Christ is my life. Christ Himself says to Mary and Martha: I am the Resurrection and the Life.
From this, we can see that the garment is an image of the life we are living; and there are two garments, two lives we may choose to live or choose to put on as we choose to put on a garment. There is the garment of the life of this world that is passing away, sewn with threads of corruption spun from the passions, from the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, from covetousness, which is idolatry. Its patterns and designs are cut out from the lustful thoughts and impure images, the fantasies and desires that occupy the mind.
Then there is the life of Christ, the wedding garment that clothed us in our baptism. If I have no wedding garment that I may enter the sacred bridal chamber of the Heavenly Bridegroom, can you see that it’s because I have given my soul to many husbands; I have chosen Caesar to be my king; I have given myself to the idols of the passions—gluttony, lust, greed, anger and the rest—and that the garments I have chosen to wear are the grave clothes of the corruption that is in the world through lust and covetousness?
‘Despising the divine commands, my soul,’ Mother Church calls out to us at Friday Matins of last week, ‘by thine own choice, thou hast surrendered thyself to corruption. Sunk in slumber through thy many trespasses, thou hast covered with filth the garment that God wove for thee, and made thyself unfit for the wedding of the King. Therefore, cry to the Savior: Tear in pieces my sackcloth and clothe me with gladness.’ (LTS 306)
You have chosen to come to this Bridegroom Matins service. You have chosen to come into the presence of the Bridegroom. You have chosen to draw near the Bridal Chamber; and the Bridegroom comes to us in our filthy grave clothes as He came to Lazarus in Bethany. I think we may say that in the beauty of these Bridegroom Matins, we hear Him crying to each one of us: ‘Come forth!’ Rouse yourself in the tomb of your heart. Hear, feel, the Bridegroom’s voice calling to you. Leave the grave clothes, the garment of this worldly life behind you. What keeps us from putting on the garment of the Savior’s divine commandments? Is it not our own choice to keep wearing the grave clothes of this life? I love those who love me, says the Bridegroom. Those who seek me diligently will find me! Nothing prevents us from choosing to heed the Bridegroom’s call, to rise up and come forth in the repentance of a broken and contrite heart, that the Bridegroom may illumine the vesture of our soul and save us and receive us, clothed again in the wedding garment of our baptism, into the Bridal Chamber of His Holy Resurrection. Amen!