Tuesday, April 14, 2020

“Behold the Bridegroom Cometh” - A Beautiful Chant for Julian Holy Week

Those who follow the Julian Calendar are now in the midst of Holy Week; here is an especially beautiful chant, the opening troparion for Matins on the first three days of the week, which has given its name to the service, Bridegroom Matins. This version in Church Slavonic is sung by the always-impressive choir of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, which has recently begun live-streaming all of its major services on YouTube.


Behold the Bridegroom cometh in the midst of the night, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching; and again, unworthy is he whom He shall find heedless. Take care, therefore, oh my soul, lest thou be borne down down with sleep, lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out of the kingdom; but rouse thyself, crying, Holy, Holy, Holy are Thou O God. * Through the Mother of God, have mercy on us!

Се Женихъ грѧдетъ въ полунощи, и блаженъ рабъ, егоже обрѧщетъ бдѧща: недостоинъ же паки, егоже обрѧщетъ унывающа. блюди убо душе моѧ, не сномъ отѧготисѧ, да не смерти предана будеши, и Царствиѧ вне затворишисѧ, но воспрѧни зовущи: Свѧтъ, Свѧтъ, Свѧтъ єси Боже, Богородицею помилуй нас.

Matins are traditionally anticipated to the evening of the day before, so that the first of the Bridegroom Matins, that of Holy Monday, is celebrated on the evening of Palm Sunday, the second, that of Holy Tuesday, on the evening of Holy Monday, and the third, that of Holy Wednesday, on the evening of Holy Tuesday. According to a Greek Holy Week book which I have, the troparion is sung three times in a row, but the final words “through the Mother of God, have mercy on us!” as given above are only sung the third time. On Holy Monday, the first two times end with the words “by the protection of the Bodiless Ones”, on Holy Tuesday, “by the prayers of the Forerunner”, and on Holy Wednesday, “by the power of the Cross.” (In the Russian usage, the end is always “through the Mother of God...”)

Here is another very beautiful version in Arabic.

Here is a video of the full ceremony sung earlier today at the Sretensky Monastery. A complete description of this would take longer for me to write than it would to watch the video, but there is one feature of it in particular that has an interesting connection with the chant given above. The first part of the video (up to 1:18:00) is Great Compline, the longer form of that Hour used in penitential seasons; Matins begins after a brief pause. At 1:37:45, the deacon begins a very beautiful Alleluja which is the first proper chant of Matins in penitential seasons, and is followed by three repetitions of the Bridegroom tropar.

Going forward to 2:20:30, another tropar called an exapostilarion is sung three times, with the two parts of the doxology between them; this marks the transition between the part of the Hour roughly analogous to Roman Matins, and the last part, which is roughly analogous to Roman Lauds, and includes the Laudate Psalms, 148-149-150. In the Slavic tradition, these are usually sung in a very slow and mournful way, as is the case here for the first two repetitions; the third time, however, it is taken up by the whole choir, and sung with the same music as the Bridegroom tropar, since its text is on the same theme. “Чертогъ Твой вижду, Спасе Мой, оукрашенный, и одежды не имамъ, да бниду вонь: просвѣти ωдѣѧнїе души моеѧ, Свѣтодабче, и спаси мѧ! – I see Thy bridal chamber adorned, my Savior, and I have no garment (i.e. wedding garment, Matt. 22, 1-14) that I might enter therein. Make Thou radiant the garment of my soul, o Giver of light, and save me!”

(The hymn of Kassiani, which I wrote about last week on Gregorian Spy Wednesday, begins at 2:41:10.)

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: