Palm Sunday and the Triduum dominate Holy Week like no liturgies of any other week. And yet, the last days of Lent are not without their moving moments. Today is Spy Wednesday, and is associated with the woman anointing Jesus’ feet, and especially the disapproval of Judas and his act of betrayal.
The Orthodox saint and composer Kassia offers a hymn for the anointing:
Sensing Thy divinity, O Lord, a woman of many sins
- takes it upon herself to become a myrrh-bearer,
And in deep mourning brings before Thee fragrant oil
- in anticipation of Thy burial; crying:
“Woe to me! For night is unto me, oestrus of lechery,
- a dark and moonless eros of sin.
Receive the wellsprings of my tears,
- O Thou who gatherest the waters of the oceans into clouds.
Bend to me, to the sorrows of my heart,
- O Thou who bendedst down the heavens in Thy ineffable self-emptying.
I will kiss Thine immaculate feet
- and dry them with the locks of my hair;
Those very feet whose sound Eve heard at dusk in Paradise
- and hid herself in fear.
Who shall reckon the multitude of my sins,
- or the abysses of Thy judgment, O Saviour of my soul?
Do not ignore me, Thy handmaiden,
- O Thou whose mercy is endless.”
The rendering in Byzantine chant is quite moving.
I’m sure the text of the Greek original is marvelous–even this translation is remarkable. Gathering oceans into clouds, the reference to the kenosis, the sensitivity to the very footsteps of God near us even when we are in sin: this sort of lyricism is more of what the Church needs.