Bridegroom Matins is a service specific to the first four evenings of Holy Week and commemorates the last days in the earthly life of our Lord. Incorporated into these services is the theme of the first three days of Holy Week, which is the last teachings of Christ to His disciples.
The main emphasis of the Bridegroom Service is metanoia (Greek = μετάνοια; Russian = покаянiе) literally meaning “repentance,” however a more accurate translation might be a transformative change of heart or mind, and each service has its own particular theme on repentance and watchfulness. One of its primary features is its troparion:
“Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant He shall find vigilant; but unworthy is he whom he shall find neglectful. Beware therefore, O my soul, lest you be weighed down by sleep, lest you be given over to death and be closed out from the kingdom; but rise up crying out: ‘Holy! Holy! Holy are You our God; through the intercessions of the Theotokos, have mercy on us’.”
In stark contrast to the fearsome images of Christ the King presented at the beginning of Lent, we are now presented with our suffering Bridegroom. Why does He suffer? Because of human sin. The betrayal of Judas, the undeserved hatred of the people, the cowardice of Pilate, the cruelty of the Romans: this is why Christ appears as He does. What form of humanity is not represented by those who mocked Jesus?
Yet still He stands before us. While we are still unfaithful, Christ is betrothed to us. This is Divine Love, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us . Such perfect, divine, love casts out all fear; and so instead of the stern Judge of the Apocalypse to spur us to repentance, we “behold the man”: the Bridegroom Who burns with such love for us that He suffers death on the Cross.
This Icon, this image of the Bridegroom, shows us nothing more than what the Roman soldiers who spat upon Christ saw. It is up to us whether we see beyond the bloody, brutalised, human before us and recognize our divine spouse. A good sign we have benefited from the rigours of Lent is when we look upon our humiliated King and still worship Him. Ah…but, no, even the Roman soldiers did that. With hard-hearts they hailed Him as king, bowed down before him, then led Him off to be executed. Our worship, our repentance, must be longer-lasting… unending.
“I have run to the fragrance of your myrrh, O Christ God, for I have been wounded by your love; do not part from me, O heavenly Bridegroom.” – Elder Porphyrios
God could have saved us by any means that He wanted – and this was the manner He chose. No explanation makes sense except complete and absolute love.