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Commemoration of Christ’s Anointment at Bethany

Great and Holy Wednesday: Christ’s Passion Drawing Near

Great Wednesday

On this day, we commemorate the event that happened to Christ shortly before His saving passion. A Christ was visiting in the house of Simon the Leper when a woman who lived a sinful life entered with a jar of expensive perfume which she put on His body. This occurred shortly before His saving Passion. The Synaxarion of the great and holy Wednesday opens with the verse: “The woman anointed the body of Christ with ointment, anticipating the aloes of Nikodemos.” The ointment and aloes were attributes of a burial ritual.

His disciples were unnerved: “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” (Matthew 26: 8—9). But Jesus stops them. "When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial." 26: 12). Jesus' anointment with the perfume, in other words, was the prediction of His death and burial.

On the Great and Holy Wednesday we hear for the last time in our churches the prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, and it is the last day when we make prostrate bows during church worship. It is the end of the transition from the forty days of Lend to the Great and Holy Week. In the liturgical texts of this day, we hear about the great priests contemplating sending Christ to His death on the Cross and finding themselves a willing accomplice among His apostles - Judas Iscariot:

"Deceitful Judas, in his love for money, pondered cunningly how he might betray You, O Lord, the Treasure of Life. Therefore in drunken folly, he hastened to the Jews and said to the transgressors: "What will you give me, and I will deliver Him to you to be crucified?”.

The Passions of Christ are coming close. At the beginning of the frightful but glorious events of the Passion Week, the Venerable John of Kronshtadt called on all Christians:

"Show that you, too, can respond to love with love; that you can keep vigil with Christ out of your love of Him. It is the vigil of your heart, if only for several hours that it took Him to drink from the Cup of Heaven’s Wrath. As Christ is bearing His passions for our sakes, let us let Him into our hearts with faith, and share His pain."

April 12, 2023
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