Spy Wednesday Traditions

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

-Mt 26:14-16

Tonight we begin Tenebrae, one of the beautiful Holy Week practices to which we look forward each year.  Although Holy Week began with Palm Sunday, it seems that after Sunday we don’t really “get into the good stuff” liturgically until Spy Wednesday rolls around.  In the Orthodox Church Holy and Great Wednesday is marked by the chanting of a beautiful, medieval hymn commemorating the sinful woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and anoints them with nard, as read in Matthew 26:6-16, the Gospel for Holy Wednesday in the Orthodox Church.

The Hymn of Kassiani, or Troparion of Kassiani (in Byzantine music a troparion is a short hymn of one stanza, or a series of stanzas) is written from the perspective of the sinful woman, and this hymn is sung only once a year. Following the custom of beginning a feast the preceding evening, it is sung on Tuesday evening at the Matins and Presanctified Liturgy of Holy Wednesday.  The words are beautiful, and adding to this is the tradition behind this hymn and its author. Continue reading