Monday we focus first on the story of Adam and Eve: their creation (1st hour prophecy), their sin, and their removal from the Garden of Eden (9th hour prophecy). We see once they sinned they could not remain any longer in Eden because good and evil cannot coexist. (11th hour Homily).
On the evening of Palm Sunday our Lord went with his disciples outside the city. Along the way to Bethany, Christ was hungry; and He cursed a fig tree with many leaves but no fruit (1st & 3rd hour). This was a symbol of the Jewish nation, which had the outward appearance of fruits, because they had followed the letter of the law. But they lacked fruit in that they did not abide by the Spirit of the law and "neglected the weightier things of the law." They continued to question His authority even to the last moment (9th hour gospel). Christ had rejected the Jews, as they were plotting to slaughter Him. The church is reminding us that we should not think of this week as simply an outer appearance of worship without sowing the fruits of repentance, love, and meekness.
As Adam and Eve covered their sin with the fig tree, Christ rebukes the fig tree to tell us that we can no longer cover our sins with a cloak of hypocrisy. As St. John Chrysostom said, 'The fig tree with its broad leaves represents the wide road. Also it reminds us of the sin which Adam tried to cover with its leaves." Adorn yourselves with virtue so we will not experience the wrath of God, but His mercy. We cannot be hypocritical (11th hour prophesy of Sirach). Even our churches cannot have good and bad fruits (11th hour Homily).
VIGIL OF MONDAY
The objective of this evening is to get ready. We are to get ready to share Christ's sufferings. This can only be achieved through faith. We are also to get ready for His Second Coming. This starts at the Cross, as the Cross is doom for those who refuse to be saved, and victory for the saved.
"For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (I Cor. 1:18).
The five readings of this evening (the first, third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hours) call our attention, warning us that the day of the Lord is near and calling us to get ready. In these readings, the Lord explains to His disciples the inevitable necessity of the Cross for the salvation of the world.
Jesus leaves the house of Bethany, situated on the Mount of Olives. Bethany is referred to as the village of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, and is located about 15 minutes from Jerusalem (John 11:18). Jesus goes to the temple, where He spends His days during the week. The evenings are spent resting in Bethany (Luke 21:27-38).
On His way to the temple, Jesus curses a fruitless fig tree (Mat. 20:18,19) and (Mark 11:12-20). Jesus curses the fig tree because it has leaves, but no fruits. Usually, fruits grow at the same time as leaves on a fig tree. St. Mark remarks that this is no season for ripe figs and that there should be no leaves on the tree, either. Thus, the presence of leaves is a false promise of fruits, a kind of pretense. Jesus takes the tree as a symbol of the Jewish nation. The nation boasts to be a blessed people because of the Law, the temple and the religious rituals related to the fasting and offering of sacrifices. However, the nation lacks the faith, love and holiness to accept Jesus Christ and obey His commandments.
It appears that the Lord did not curse the tree because it had no fruits, but because the leaves gave a false promise of fruits. This is how God rebukes a fruitless person.
"These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving [only] themselves. [They are] clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." (Jude 1:12,13).
On the same day, Jesus enters the temple. In the temple, Jesus casts out the people who are selling and buying. Jesus will not suffer anyone to carry vessels through the temple (Mark 11:15,16). Jesus compares the temple to a 'den of thieves' because the buyers and sellers are disturbing the holiness of the temple, referred to as "My Father's house". Jesus wants to tell them, "You have dishonored my house with your trade. You are cheating God's rights. You have transformed the divine sanctuary into a marketplace for material profit, depriving those who come for worship from the opportunity to raise their hearts to God in the holy place designed for adoration. You are robbing the strangers, extorting their money against the goods they are buying for sacrifices.
The cursing of the fig tree and the casting out of the traders are the most important events on Monday. Throughout the rest of the day, Jesus is teaching and performing miracles, infuriating the high priests and the guardians of the temple. For this purpose, the Church organizes the readings of Monday and the vigil of Tuesday to be centered around the cursed tree that had leaves and no fruits and the use of the temple for a materialistic trade.
The Church makes it clear that to be able to live in Christ, as our Savior teaches us through the parables, we should be aware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. The true physician of souls knows the danger of hypocrisy and where the disease lies. He loves the publicans and the sinners whose healing He can foresee. Furthermore, Jesus tells the woman caught in sin, "Neither I, do condemn thee" (John 8:11). On the other hand, Jesus has no pity for hypocrisy because it is the root of all diseases. By justifying the sinner in his own eyes, hypocrisy prevents a sinner from healing. As we begin to commemorate the sufferings of our Lord, let us prepare our hearts for the Holy Spirit to help us escape from hypocrisy so that we may benefit from His fruits during the Holy Pascha.
FIRST HOUR - Adam and Eve (Genesis); the parable of the vineyard (Isaiah); the importance of wisdom and the fear of the Lord (Sirach); guardian angels (St. Shenouda's homily); the fig tree (gospel).
THIRD HOUR - God will send forth His wrath with the approaching armies (Isaiah). Thus, the Lord will scatter His people b/c of their lust and the people will mourn (Jeremiah). But the house of the Lord will be their only salvation (Psalm) just as Christ had entered into the Temple (Mark).
SIXTH HOUR - The sacrifices God initially gave Moses, as a means forgiveness of sin (Exodus), was no longer acceptable. Instead of discipline and wisdom, they brought about punishment and vengeance (Solomon). So Christ had made a whip of cords and drove out all of the sheep and doves in the temple (John).
NINTH HOUR - When Adam and Eve sinned, God cast them out of Eden (Genesis). But God has promised to forgive His people; so we should be prepared for His forgiveness (Isaiah), fear God and be wise (Proverbs). Special exposition!
ELEVENTH HOUR - We were sold into slavery because of our sins (Isaiah), another warning of hypocrisy (Sirach). St. Shenouda's homily especially connects Adam and eve's sin w/ hypocrisy.
FIRST HOUR - God asks us to repent (Zechariah) or we shall not enter the narrow gate (Luke);
THIRD HOUR - People try to warn Christ that Herod is trying to kill Him (Luke)
SIXTH HOUR - Moses gets angry with the people for worshiping idols (Exodus). Christ tells us that eating excessively weighs down the body; instead keep watch and stay alert (Luke, Exposition).
NINTH HOUR - Woe to you Pharisees! (Luke)
ELEVENTH HOUR - Keep watch and pray (Mark)