Holy Tuesday: The Bridegroom’s Coming

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

—Matthew 25:6 KJV

In the Orthodox Church, observances of Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (which in that tradition take place next week) focus on the end times, “remind[ing] us of the eschatological meaning of Pascha,” says Alexander Schmemann.

The Gospel reading for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Holy Tuesday is Matthew 24:36–26:2, which covers the need for watchfulness, the parable of the ten bridesmaids, the parable of the talents, and the Last Judgment. These passages constitute the latter half of Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, or Little Apocalypse, which, according to the chronology of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus preached the Tuesday before his death.

So, informed by the Matthew 25:1–13 reading, today I’ve selected a papercut by Chinese artist Fan Pu and a Black gospel song from the southern US that both engage with Jesus’s call to keep our metaphoric oil lamps burning in expectation of the return of the Bridegroom, who died and rose for love of us, and who has gone to build us a home.

LOOK: Ten Bridesmaids by Fan Pu

Fan Pu_Ten Bridesmaids
Fan Pu (Chinese, 1948–), Ten Bridesmaids, 2001. Papercut. Collection of the Asian Christian Art Association.

(Note: This artwork has changed since the original publication of this post. I learned that the previous artist did not want her work featured or her name mentioned on the website.)

LISTEN: “The Bridegroom’s Coming,” traditional gospel song | Recorded August 6, 1940, by Mitchell’s Christian Singers, on Mitchell’s Christian Singers, vol. 3 (1938–1940) (released 1996)

I couldn’t find lyrics for this song online, so I transcribed them myself the best I could. I’m not positive about the second line in the refrain, and I couldn’t make out the second half of the last line of verse 2.

And behold (and behold), lo, the Bridegroom’s coming
Lift up (lift up), I heard the voices cryin’ out loud
And be ready (and be ready) when the Bridegroom’s coming
To meet him in the air

Ever seen such a man as this?
Jesus was sent, he came down to die
Jesus was sent, he came down to die
Came to save my soul from the burning fire [Refrain ×2]

Ever seen such a man as this?
Jesus was sent, he came down to die
Jesus was sent, he came down to die
I want to meet . . . (?) [Refrain ×2]

Mitchell’s Christian Singers [previously] were an influential early gospel group from Kinston, North Carolina.

The Kentucky Jubilee Four recorded an earlier version of this song for OKeh in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1927.

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