These readings are about the Son of God, the king and savior, who came to establish the kingdom of peace and righteousness. (Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord, blessed be the kingdom of our father David). Glory be to Him in which the kingdom is revealed in the death and the holy resurrection of Christ.
Vespers Psalm (psalm 118:26-27) Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the LORD: We have blessed you out of the house of the LORD. God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
Here, the souls in the new testament are shouting, thirsting for redemption, for he who will come, is the Son of man. And the blessing comes from his holy house and on the altar we celebrate the sacrifice of divine love in the new testament. That is why we call this the Psalm of Redemption.
Vespers Gospel in John 12:1-11 is about the anointing of Jesus in Bethany. It states the following:
Then Jesus came to Bethany six days before the passover, where Lazarus was laid there death, whom He raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Then said one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, why was this not ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? He said this as not care for the poor; but because he was a thief, and hold the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then Jesus said, let her alone: against the day of my burying she kept this. For the poor always you have them with you; but for me you do not have me always with you. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus as well, whom he had raised from the death. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that might be the reason that many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.
Did Mary know that she was celebrating her brother Lazarus’ resurrection from the death? Or that the ointment she poured on the feet of the LORD was for his burial? And that this fragrance would be the fragrance of His holy resurrection and not the fragrance of His death? He who is able to raise Lazarus from the dead is also able to be resurrected by his divine power.
The house of Bethany, instead of the house of torment and suffering, became the house of sacrificial love and nard, which in ancient times was a very precious perfumed ointment. The house of Bethany became an example of a house full of love and anointing. No wonder such a gospel is read on the Saturday and Wednesday of Holy Passover, since love is the only language through which we can realize the nature of God (1 John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love) and the only method of communing with God (Luke 10:27 He answered and said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and with all thy neighbor as thyself).
The corresponding ointment was valued at three hundred pennies at Mark 14:5. However, the average worker’s daily income was only one penny at that time as stated in Matthew 20:2. This means that that of the ointment in question is equal to the annual income of an average laborer, if one considers the deduction for weekends and holidays. You can imagine how much that is if a Dutch person with an average income earns approximately € 38,000 per year. The corresponding ointment would approximately have an equivalent value today. This does not indicate that this ointment is valuable, but that it has no value in relation to her divine love and the extent to which her heart is filled with the love for Christ. Her love for Christ made her sell all her earthly possessions in pursuit of the true treasure and pearl (Matthew 13:44-46), and all that she lost in doing so she regarded as filth, that they might gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).
Saint Gregory shows the connection between the house which is filled with the ointment fragrance and the universe which is filled with the gospel of the New Testament: “That ointment is no different from the ointment of the groom who smelled the fragrance of the bride”. “While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. (Song of Songs 1:12).
The gospel indicates that the pouring of ointment on God’s feet caused a pleasant smell in the house where supper was eaten. The woman who poured the ointment seemed to have foretold the mystery of Christ’s death. God is witness to her act. “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial” (Matthew 26:12)
The house filled with such a fragrance represents the whole universe, “wherever this gospel will be preached in all the world”, her perfume will be spread where the gospel will be preached, and the gospel will be “a memory of her”. In the Song of Songs, the fragrance of nard spreads the perfume of the bridegroom in his bride, also in the Gospel, a sweet fragrance of Christ that filled the whole house becomes like an ointment to the whole ecclesiastical body throughout the world.
“St. Gregory of Nyssa- Gospel of John 12 Commentary – Father Tadros Yacoub Malaty”
Gospels of Matins Procession in Palm Sunday (and Feast of the Cross)
During such a procession there are twelve chapters of both Gospels and Psalms. The psalm deals with the person or related subject portrayed in the icon, while the Gospels deal with the New Testaments kingdom revealed in God’s salvation through his death and resurrection. The words “King” and “Kingdom” are mentioned in nearly all twelve Gospels.
“You are the king of Israel” For the main sanctuary
“He has pushed the mighty from their seats and exalted them from a low degree” In front of the icon of St. Mary
“And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever” For the icon of Archangel Gabriel
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field” For the icon of Archangel Michael “The kingdom of God has drawn near to you” In front of the icon of Saint Mark
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand” For the icons of the apostles
“Until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” In front of the icon of St. Abba Antony “And shall sit down in the kingdom of God” At the north door
“And behold, the heavens were opened unto him” For the waters of the Theophany Font “Your king comes to you, meek.” For the south door
“But he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” In front of the icon of John the Baptist
The twelve gospels can be divided into three subcategories:
The first four Gospels are about God the Father, St. Mary (Incarnation) and Archangels. The second four gospels are about the saints and the last four gospels are about the church.
During these readings, if we turn our attention to the cross and redemption, we can see the following:
Begging for salvation in the first category, as the Father lovingly gave his only begotten Son (John 3:16) and chose the Mother of God to embody out of her (Luke 1:30) through the preaching of Archangel Gabriel as a servant of the incarnation (Luke 1:11, 26), and his holy resurrection declared by Archangel Michael when the stone was rolled back from the door of the tomb (fractions of faster and resurrection to Pentecost).
Icons of salvation in the second category, those who were overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony loved not their lives unto death (Revelation 12:11). This category includes Saint Mark the Evangelist, the Apostles, Saint George of Cappadocia, also known as the Prince of Martyrs and Saint Anthony of Egypt. The holy church always brings the theme to us to follow their faith, given the end of their conversation (Hebrews 13:7) and we lay aside any weight when we share life with a cloud of heavenly witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). They are sheep who sacrificed their lives for the greatest Lamb as they followed us in the footsteps of the flock and built the shepherd’s tents (Song of Songs 1:8), i.e., the way of life in the Christ.
To the third category belongs the holy church (mediator for our redemption), so we see the south door, the north door, the water of the Theophany font and the Baptismal Font. Here are lectures about the location and mysteries of the redemption. We see the beautiful tabernacles (psalm of the ninth hour), the gate to the Lord that the righteous shall enter (psalm of the eleventh hour), the voice of the Lord is on water baptism (psalm of the tenth hour), and what makes us a fruitful olive in the house of God (Psalm of the twelfth hour).
Which, in the first group, we are in the cross, which declares the love of the Father (John 3:16, John 12:32), being lifted up from the earth.
In the second group – We are in the cross, which is declared in the saints (Revelation 12:11, Hebrews 12:1), supported by their prayers for us.
In the third group – We are in the cross, that we take its strength in sacraments of the church (1 Corinthians 11:26, John 20:23), drawn to the heavenly places.
(Thus we see ourselves in the cross of the Son of God drawn by divine love, sustained by the communion and prayers of the saints, and exalted by the sacraments of the Church).
In Psalm 68:20, 35 it says Blessed be the Lord; day by day he overloads us. That God is our salvation. O God, Thou art awe-inspiring from Thy sanctuaries; the God of Israel, He gives strength and strength to the people. Blessed be God! This psalm is a psalm of praise and joy for the event in which God, the Lamb of God, entered Jerusalem to offer the cross. Blessing here is like the blessing of the multitude for him at his coming in Jerusalem (Blessed be the kingdom of our father David…)
Abouna Tadros Yacoub Malaty says of that psalm:
“That is the fourth and last of the series of Praises (65-86) and one of the Praises uttered when the Ark of the Covenant entered the City of David (2 Samuel 6:12-15), as he explains: “It is a Messianic Psalm revealing the redemption provided to the world by the Lord Christ. Such a memorial ecclesiastical messianic psalm of praise influenced the lives of the people long ago, as they repeated it on the feast of the harvest and as a memorial to the descent of the Law on Mount Sinai. It is a liturgical commemorative psalm, denoting the glorified gifts of Christ to the Church.”
The Gospel of Matins says, “And Jesus entered Jericho, and passed through. And behold, there was a man whose name was Zacchaeus, and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. And he tried to see who Jesus was, but he couldn’t because of the crowd, because he was small in person. And having run ahead, he climbed into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass by. And when Jesus came to that place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down, for today I must dwell in your house. And he hastened and came down and received Him with joy. And all who saw it grumbled among themselves, saying, He has gone into a sinful man to dwell there. Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, Behold, Lord, I give half my goods to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I will return it fourfold. Then Jesus said to him, this day salvation has come to this house, because this also is the son of Abraham. For the son of man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)
The readings gradually begin to reveal and reveal the essence of the cross, redemption and salvation, such as the divine boundless love for man and the undervaluing of all precious and cheap things by souls who love the savior whose eyes are illuminated by redemption. That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you may be rooted and grounded in love, that you may fully understand with all the saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and that you may know the love of Christ which passed knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
The language spoken in the Vespers Gospel concerning the woman who poured the ointment on the Lord’s feet was full of love to an extent that made her neglect her income of a year, because of her love for the Lord. Here we see Zacchaeus, who was the chief of the publicans, a class of people which was concerned with money, business, and profit to the fullest. However, after his meeting with God, we see that he also neglected the profits and knowledge accumulated over many years. And out of the abundance of his love, he gave half of his goods to the poor and needy with complete satisfaction.
What is strange over here is that criticism is directed to God in the Vespers Gospel under the pretense that it could better be used for the poor and needy. Although Zacchaeus responds in the Matins Gospels that he gives a lot to the poor, again here criticism is directed to God for abiding in the house of a sinful man. Both readings show us that those who do not accept the divine love are always ready to come up with excuses for themselves. However, we can see that the gift of divine love to the thirsty souls is beyond our understanding and our expectation. Similarly, the woman who poured the ointment never realized that this gospel would be preached to the whole world and that her act would be memorized. Also Zacchaeus did not know that his simple desire to see Christ by climbing into a tree would be valued and that He would accompany him at home and bring salvation to his family. This is the divine love that “a bruised reed he shall not break, and smoking flax he shall not quench” (Matthew 12:20).
Sayings of the church fathers about salvation of the rich and how they handle money:
Saint Ambrose says:
“But the Lord does not condemn those who have ‘money’, but He rather judges how one makes use of money. Excessive money may call for a lot of things, some of which are evil. However, it could also be used in virtue … Zacchaeus, for example, was rich and teaches us that not all rich people are greedy.”
Saint John Chrysostom says:
“The Lord did not forbid people from becoming rich, but rather to be slaves to their wealth. He wishes us to use it as a necessity, but not to be guards to it. The slave keeps guard, whereas the landlord spends the money”.
Gospel of Luke 12 (Commentary – Father Tadros Yacoub Malaty)
A comparison is made between at one side Zacchaeus the publican and the woman who poured the ointment, and at the other side the leaders of the people (and latter, Jude). While a precious ointment was given by the woman as a sign of pure love and appreciation for God’s presence in her life and Zacchaeus, a money slave, easily gave away half of his goods after God abided in his house, the chiefs of the temple were engaged with the trading. They did not grant attention to the one who stood among them, whom they didn’t know (John 1: 26) because of the blindness of their heart. And also in Jude’s perspective, God turned from a precious “value” preferred above all temptations to become a “price” to be taken by any means.
Another significant fact is that the houses visited by God were left with many blessings. For example, in Matins Gospel the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, was filled with the scent of ointment, love, and generosity which will be preached all over the world. Similarly, the house of Zacchaeus in Vespers Gospel was filled with salvation for a soul close to being devastated.
The Pauline Epistle (Hebrews 9:11-28)
“…, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works?… and without shedding of blood is no remission … For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us … but now once in the end of the age has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Although it is a day of God’s arrival in Jerusalem as a king, the whole reading is focused on the salvation and the redemption which God has granted to humanity through His Holy Blood. This reveals that the kingdom which God came for, was incarnated for and entered Jerusalem for today, was for our salvation and the promise of the inheritance of our eternal life. It was not intended to be a political liberation from the Roman authority as expected by the people.