April 12, 2023

Journey Through Holy Week: Holy and Great Wednesday

 The Harlot Who Sensed the Divinity of the Bridegroom Christ

On Holy and Great Wednesday, the whole world remembers, according to the words of Christ, the act of gratitude, repentance and love of a woman who anointed Christ with precious myrrh, according to the Gospel, shortly before His passion.

The Narrations of the Evangelists

Matthew (26:6-7), whose Gospel we will hear on Holy Wednesday morning during the Presanctified Liturgy, says: "And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table."

Mark (14:3) says: "And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head."

Luke (7:37-38) says: "And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil."

John (12:1-3) says: "Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil."

Orthodox Interpretation

The Church sees in this incident gratitude, repentance and love for Christ, but also a foreshadowing of His death and burial, according to Christ's own words: "She did it for my burial."

Saint John Chrysostom sees humanity in the harlot woman, who left her Bridegroom and fell into sin and corruption. And the Bridegroom-Christ came to Earth to marry the harlot, which is human nature. Human nature, in the person of the harlot, senses the divinity of Christ and approaches Him with repentance and love, and Christ as the Bridegroom accepts her and suffers for her on the Cross, in order to resurrect her with His Resurrection.

This incident was praised in a wonderful way by our Church. Today we will hear, among others, the troparia: "A harlot came to You", "The harlot in tears", "She who is immersed in sin", "She who despairs of life".

And of course the wonderful doxastikon - troparion of Kassiani, the nun and poetess, for this woman of the Gospel: "Lord, the woman fallen in many sins, sensed Your divinity, took the role of a myrrhbearer...."

The touch of divinity, of the Grace of Christ, dominates the heart of the woman, which inspired and brought out devotion in her in this wonderful way.

The Four Embracings of Christ

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

This Holy and Great Week we see the special way in which one approaches God with an embrace, without expressing one's self in words. Four such cases are recorded.

The first case is of the harlot woman whom the Church reminds us of today, on Holy and Great Tuesday, who expressed her love for Christ by kissing His feet. In this way she expressed her repentance. In a little while we will hear the troperion say: "I will kiss Your immaculate feet."

The second case is that of Saint John the Evangelist, the disciple of love and theologian, who went further and fell on the breast of Christ, during the Secret Supper on Holy Thursday. The theologian that he was, he expressed this special love by casting his face on the breast of Christ.

The third case is that of the Most Holy Theotokos, when they crucified Christ. According to the Holy Gospels and sacred iconography, the Panagia also attended the unnailing of Christ, approached Christ and embraced His head.

We have three different cases. The harlot woman expressed her repentance, without words, but with her silence, by weeping at the feet of Christ; Saint John the Theologian expressed his love - his theology - by weeping on the breast of Christ; and the Panagia, as the highest of the Saints, with the important position she holds within the Church, embraced the head of Christ.

On the contrary, there is a fourth case of an embrace, a kiss of betrayal, which we also heard tonight in the troparia, namely the case of Judas, who violated this rule and without starting from the embrace of Christ's feet or even from the theology of John the Theologian, he went directly, bypassing this basic rule, to embrace Christ in the face, having in his heart the passion of avarice. This is how he ended up in betrayal, suicide and his complete destruction. Because whoever transgresses and exceeds the spiritual rules, accepts the consequence of this transgression.


Some who visited Saint Paisios on the Holy Mountain noticed that he had an icon of Christ, which was a little damaged at Christ's feet. When they asked him what this meant, he gave the interpretation from which it was seen that he loved more to kiss the icon at the feet of Christ, as an expression of repentance. Because to kiss the feet of Christ in His icon is an expression of repentance, to kiss the breast is an expression of reverence and theology, and to kiss the face of Christ is an expression of perfect love which is the vision of God.

However, it pleases me, when I kiss the icon of Christ, and especially when I ascend here to the Despotic Throne, where I see Christ as the Great High Priest, to kiss the feet of Christ or also His hand that blesses the people who pray to Him and try to live according to what He teaches.

The truth is that man must, until he leaves this world, and if he wants to see the glory of God in the Light, reveal all his secrets including those that are unknown to others or cannot be revealed yet even to those dearest to him, and begin to reveal them with the mental confession he makes before God, especially with the confession before a spiritual father.

Thus, we must imitate the harlot woman of the Gospel, whom we love so much, because she expresses us all, she expresses us with the spirit of repentance, the spirit of humility and self-emptying. This woman without many words, no words at all, but with her silence she showed the wealth of feelings she had inside her and kissed the feet of Christ, after first anointing them with the myrrh of her love and listening to that word of Christ: "Her many sins are forgiven, because she loved much" (Luke 7:47).

When we express our repentance in this way, little by little we will see progress in our spiritual life and more of a relationship with Christ, so that when we see Christ after the soul leaves the body, especially during the Second Coming, it will be a joy and celebration for us and not sadness and distress.


Let the harlot woman, for whom we will shortly hear the troparion composed by Saint Kassiani, become an example and a model of life for us to eliminate in every way all the secrets of our heart to God before we leave this world to live in the Light of Divine Vision, of true theology.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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