Tonight (Tuesday Night) during Palm/Holy week in the Orthodox tradition the Wednesday morning Matins service is held. Toward the end of this service the Hymn of Cassia (Kassia, Kassiani) is sung.
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 Thy handmaiden,
O Thou whose mercy is endless.”
During the service, elsewhere in the service (in verse) the story of the harlot washing Jesus feet with Myrrh at the Pharisee’s house is interwoven with comparisons with Judas as he prepares his betrayal.
Recently, in the news, more accounts of scandals in the Catholic episcopacy have apparently resurfaced. Those who feel this is an indictment against Christianity and the Church in general forget that the Church is not a collection of good people gathering together to do good works. A better description would be more akin to a hospital for the wounded, who are ministered not by the well, but are tended by other whom are just as wounded. Those who pretend they are well, might not seek a hospital.
Re-read the prayer above. This poem/hymn is the heartfelt plea of a ascetic monastic nun. She was a Saint, but this is the cry of her heart (and not on account her view of someone else’s). Like last night’s gospel reading (the Woe to you Pharisees and Scribes, Hypocrites!) … the protagonist is not some other whom we might look down upon, but us. The distinction (made clearly in the service) is not that she sins “more than us” but that she repents (and we so often do not).
One of the more outrageous conceits found even among Orthodox (who should know better) is to regard those outside of the Church as “more” sinful than those inside. Perhaps we might be more aware of how we fall short of the mark.
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.