By Archimandrite Epiphanios Theodoropoulos
On Great Monday, we commemorate the virtuous Joseph (son of the patriarch Jacob and grandson of Abraham), a type of our Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph, the beloved son of his father, was at first thrown into a pit to be murdered by his brothers but then was sold for twenty gold coins to merchants and by them to Potiphar, who was the chief cook of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Joseph was a most handsome young man and for this reason, the wife of Potiphar wanted to sin with him. Having refused her advances, she slandered him to her husband, saying that he allegedly attacked her for immoral purposes. Potiphar believed the slander, and the innocent Joseph was cast into prison. At one point, Pharaoh saw a strange dream and he wanted this dream to be interpreted. He was then told that a Hebrew young man in prison had once interpreted the dreams of his fellow captives. Joseph, by order of Pharaoh, was brought before him, and being enlightened by God, he interpreted the dream of Pharaoh and told him how seven years of plenty were coming upon the land, followed by seven years of hunger and famine. Then Pharaoh, fascinated by the divine wisdom of Joseph, clothed him in a royal robe and put him on a royal chariot, making him the general ruler of Egypt, or the Prime Minister as we would call him. Joseph administered his authority with admirable wisdom, and later, when famine came due to the fruitlessness of the earth, he opened the storehouses that had been filled in the first years and satisfied the people. Joseph is considered a type and foreshadowing of the Lord because He, too, the beloved Son of the Father, was slain by those of His fellow race, namely the Jews, sold by His disciple, tortured, and thrown dead into the dark tomb. Then He rose gloriously and nourishes us through the Bread of life, that is, through His all-holy Body.
Also, on Great Monday, we perform the commemoration of the barren fig tree, which was cursed by the Lord and dried up. This fig tree symbolizes the Synagogue of the Jews, which did not have spiritual fruits and, for this reason, was condemned by the Lord, just as are all people who lack spiritual fruit, namely virtue. The Church, bringing before us the example of the fig tree, wants to urge us towards spiritual struggles to acquire virtues.
The hymnography of this day is dedicated to the above two themes (Joseph and the fig tree) as well as the theme of the Lord coming towards His Passion. The first troparion chanted, as an introduction, is the most beautiful and most solemn “Behold, the Bridegroom Comes,” inspired by the Lord’s Parable of the Ten Virgins. Due to this troparion, which is chanted on the next two days, the Services of Great Monday, Great Tuesday and Great Wednesday are called the “Services of the Bridegroom.”
Let us quote this wonderful troparion:
“Behold, the Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant whom He finds watching. And again unworthy is he whom he shall find careless. See to it, my soul, that sleep does not overcome you, lest you be given over to death and are locked out of the kingdom. But arise and cry out: Holy, Holy, Holy are You our God, through the Theotokos have mercy on us.”
Most beautiful as well is the following troparion:
“I see Your Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Saviour, and I have no wedding garment, that I may enter therein; O Giver of Light, make radiant the vesture of my soul, and save me.”
Source: Περίοδος Τριωδίου, Ιερόν Ησυχαστήριον Κεχαριτωμένης Θεοτόκου Τροιζήνος, 2011. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.