Palm Sunday heralds the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week: the final ascent towards Easter and the celebration of Christ’s glorious resurrection. After Sunday, the first three days of Holy Week remind us – through the liturgical prayers, scripture readings, and icons – of Christ’s final instructions before His crucifixion.
Holy Monday is given over to the remembrance of Christ’s cursing of the fig tree: a parable in action (Matt 21:18-22).
This event, which occurred the day after “Palm Sunday”, is interpreted as symbolizing the rejection of the Jews by Christ due to their fruitlessness. Just as the fig tree was cursed for appearing outwardly verdant yet utterly fruitless, so too are the outwardly religious Jews cursed for adhering to religious rituals whilst neglecting the fruits of true repentance, humility, and charity. This is further underlined by the other Gospel readings for the day, which describe the parable of the two sons and the parable of the wicked vinedressers (Matt 21:28-43) and are explicitly directed against the religious Jews.
The readings about, and imagery of, the cursed fig tree have survived until today because they can also be applied to us. As disciples of Christ being led towards the Resurrection, we must not cultivate our outward piety whilst neglecting the genuine fruits of faith. Those who belong to Christ ought to live and walk in the Spirit; and the Spirit will bear fruit in them (Gal 5:22-25). If we are without fruit, the withered fig tree reminds us of Christ’s swift strictness at the Last Judgment.
Images associated with Holy Week can often be found together in the frescoes of churches and monasteries. Above and below are collections of icons for Holy Monday.
Readings for Holy Monday:
Matins Gospel: Matthew 21: 18-43
6th Hour (noon): Ezekiel 1:1-20
Vespers: Exodus 1:1-20; Job 1:1-20; Matthew 24:3-35
The Services of the Bridegroom (information about Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday)