“What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with Judas Iscariot for thirty pieces of silver.” - St Matthew, 26.15
For the Greek Orthodox faithful today is the Great and Holy Wednesday before Easter on Sunday this week. In church the liturgy includes the reading of the gospel by Matthew that relates the woman’s anointing Jesus’ hair with myrrh. The disciples castigated the woman for her waste of good money with this lavish act, saying the money would have been better spent on the poor. Jesus reprimanded them in return saying that they could help the poor on many an occasion thereafter, but he was to die soon and he had been anointed with myrrh in preparation for this. This seems to have prompted Judas to leave and betray Jesus to the high priests for thirty pieces of silver.
In the afternoon of Holy Wednesday, the liturgy includes the ceremony of the Sacrament of the Great Unction. During its celebration, seven gospel extracts are read and seven blessings are uttered, a candle lit for each gospel extract chanted. The congregation often follow suit and light candles, following the priest’s lead. The fragrant chrism oil used in memory of Christ’s anointment with myrrh, is blessed by the priest and the faithful attending the ceremony are anointed on the forehead, the chin and the cheeks in the shape of a cross, as well as having their palms anointed.
The sacrament of the Great Unction can also be performed outside the church if a member of the congregation requests this of the priest. Extreme Unction may be performed on moribund people. The blessed unctional oil is considered therapeutic and many a householder may keep some of this blessed oil near their devotional icons to be used for anointment if a member of the household should become sick.
In some parts of Greece, housewives take a basin full of flour to church and during the liturgy put three lit wax candles in the flour. This flour is then used to make Easter cookies the following day.