Redeeming the Time
An Orthodox Christian
Journal
St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Home Page St Nicholas the Wonderworker Go to the bottom of the page
Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Dallas, Texas
Redeeming the Time
May 15/May 28, 2000
Vol. 04.03


See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time, because the days are evil.


PRINTABLE Version



NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 3

A NOTE ABOUT PRAYER DURING THE PENTECOSTARION PERIOD

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN CHRIST

QUESTIONS ABOUT ST THOMAS SUNDAY

THOUGHTS ON THE SUNDAY OF ST THOMAS

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT APPEARANCES

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THOMAS SUNDAY

GLEANINGS FROM THE FATHERS

THE PERSONAL MEANING OF THE RESURRECTION

News and Announcements

A Note about Prayer during the Pentecostarion period


The prayer to the Holy Spirit, "O Heavenly King", said in almost every Orthodox prayer service is NOT said from Paschal matins (the first service of the Pentecostarion), which begins at midnight on the Sunday of Pascha, until the Vespers service for Pentecost. Anywhere this prayer occurs it is omitted, and until Ascension Thursday, is substituted with the Paschal troparion (Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life), sung three times. We are like the Apostles during this period, "waiting" for the Holy Spirit to come, and the absence of this prayer makes a strong statement of our profound need for the Holy Spirit.
Also, during this time, we do not normally do prostrations, unless our spiritual father instructs us to do them for some reason. In any case, no prostrations are done in the church until the day of Pentecost.

Questions about the Appearances of the Risen Christ

QUESTION 1
The appearances of Jesus after His resurrection are recounted in a series of ___ gospels that are read serially in the Sunday matins services. Each one of these readings also has a matching set of 2 hymns that are sung at the end of matins after ________ and ____________. These hymns are called the __________ with its matching ___________ and the ________________.

QUESTION 2
How many appearances of Jesus to all or most of the apostles are recorded? Describe each visit briefly.

QUESTION 3
Which apostle saw the risen Jesus first? Who appears to have believed in the resurrection first?

QUESTION 4
Who appears to have seen the resurrected Lord first? Who actually saw the risen Lord first?

QUESTION 5
Which two disciples saw Jesus while walking in the country? Where is this story found? This is easy if you know who the two disciples are! Tell the story briefly. How many times do you hear this story in church (approximately)?

QUESTION 6
How were angels involved on the day of the resurrection? How many angels were involved in announcing the resurrection?

QUESTION 7
Who saw the risen Lord "as one out of due time"?

QUESTION 8
Describe the first appearance to the 11. Since the recounting of the events of Christ is more that just history, but is a sacred record full of deep and inner meaning, try to discuss aspects of this visit from more that just a strictly historical view. Are there any truths that can be gleaned here?

QUESTION 9
Describe the appearance of the risen Christ to most of the apostles, when they were plying their trade. In what gospel is this story found? Contrast certain aspects of this appearance with a similar incident that had occurred 3 years before. Don't forget to discuss an important discussion that occurred at this time.

QUESTION 10
Give a summarized Chronology of the first day of the resurrection.

Questions about St Thomas Sunday

QUESTION 1
When is the Sunday of St. Thomas? Why? On the Sunday of St. Thomas, two hymns normally sung in Sunday matins are not sung. What are these hymns? Why are they not sung?

QUESTION 2
A Hymn normally sung once in Sunday matins is sung three times, in the matins for St. Thomas Sunday, and until when? What is the hymn?

QUESTION 3
How many days after the resurrection were required for Thomas to believe? Why did he not originally believe?

QUESTION 4
How does the Holy Spirit, through the services characterize Thomas' unbelief?

QUESTION 5
What strident words did the Holy Apostle Thomas say, which were quite similar to the Holy Apostle Peter's just before the Passion Week of our Savior? Were these words shown to be sincere?

QUESTION 6
"And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst ... Then saith he to Thomas ... and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God." (John 20:26-27 (parts), 20:28)

What is the theological meaning of St. Thomas' expression of worship?

QUESTION 7
How many times had the apostles as a group seen the risen Lord before St. Thomas saw Him and believed?

QUESTION 8
What important priestly charism was given by Christ when He came to the upper room the first time He saw the apostles?

QUESTION 9
What far away land did St. Thomas spread the Gospel to, where he met his end as a martyr?

QUESTION 10
What is unique about how the church reads the story of the doubting of Thomas?

Thoughts on the Sunday of St Thomas

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen!

Today is the second Sunday of Pascha already. It is the Sunday of St. Thomas. Today we read about, as the church calls it, St. Thomas' "believing unbelief."1 There is a theme here that the church is going to be talking about now in the light of the resurrection during the whole Pentecostarion period: the enlightenment of man. The resurrection is being applied now. We see it in the Acts that we're reading for quite some time now. In the light of the resurrection, we see what's happening. We see how many people were healed, how many people were converted, and how lives were changed. Even the shadow of the apostles healed people of their infirmities.2 In the light of the resurrection, there was activity, there was motion, and there was enlightenment.

St Thomas, no different than you or I, had to be enlightened also. Everyone has different levels of understanding on various things, even among the apostles, even among the saints. It is fascinating to look and see how our Lord in the forty days that He spent on the earth enlightened so many using different ways to enlighten them, and also throughout the whole of the gospels how He reached people where they needed to be reached. The final destination is always the same: to follow the commandments and to become purified, so that we can know Christ in an intimate way. But sometimes Christ teaches certain people a little bit different. In fact, everyone is treated a little bit different.

Thomas wasn't there the first night of Pascha.3 He had just left probably on some errand, and that is when Christ came, the doors being shut. And Jesus spoke to the eleven, or actually, ten4 at that point, and they were glad. I have always marveled how in the scriptures great, momentous occasions are stated so laconically. "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."5 Indeed, they were glad, when they saw the God-man! But Thomas was not there, and the resurrection was such an incredible thing; he cannot really be faulted for not believing.

Peter didn't believe when he saw the grave clothes, only John did, when they went into the grave and saw the clothes lying folded up.6 John saw and believed, but Peter didn't. He went away, wondering in himself what had come to pass.7 Mary Magdalene, who saw the stone rolled away from the tomb together with the Theotokos, didn't immediately believe in the resurrection. She came back to the tomb with myrrh and aloes to anoint the Lord, He Who in her mind was dead. She was weeping because He wasn't in the tomb.8 She was weeping for someone Who was dead. That's why we sing, "Do not weep for one who is dead," it says (in a paraphrasement). "He is not dead, He is not here, He is alive and risen." In our exapostilarion we speak of this quite a bit, of how Mary misunderstood. And our Lord came to her and she thought He was the gardener, till He spoke to her and just in the hearing of His voice, when He said, "Mary", then she recognized Him.9

Other disciples spent an entire perhaps half a day with Christ, and didn't understand. They were Luke and Cleopas on the way to Emmaus.10 The tomb had already been empty for some time, and they were walking a long distance. It says in the scriptures 60 furlongs, quite a long distance, a day's journey, in the hot sun, and our Lord drew alongside them, and He spoke to them, and they didn't understand Who He was. They thought that He was a misinformed stranger, because He made like He wondered what the events were in the past couple days. But their hearts burned within them. Something about this Man captivated them, when He spoke to them about the scriptures, and opened their understanding. That's why it says: "And then opened He their understanding of the scriptures" And when they sat down, and when He broke bread, (which was of course, the Body and Blood of Christ), then they saw Him, and He vanished. And as they were making their way back in the wee hours of the morning, another day's journey, (they took two days' journey in one day), Christ was appearing to the other apostles, save Thomas.

You see how He enlightened people where they needed to be enlightened. Luke and Cleopas must have needed this conversation with the Lord, and to see Him in the breaking of the bread, to really have the point brought home that yes, the Lord had risen. Mary had to be spoken with by Lord. She had to see Him. John believed just by seeing the empty tomb. Peter was met by the Lord, the church understands.11 Peter was met individually by the Lord, because after all, he was a bit shaken, wasn't he? Peter was a man of great bravery. He can't be faulted for his denying Christ three times. We would have done it a thousand times. But he was very shaken because of this, and because of his emotional turmoil he was in, it was very difficult for him to believe in the resurrection, because he was all wrapped up with his feeling so completely unworthy of what the Lord had called him to do. So the Lord had to meet with Peter individually, apart from the other apostles. And in fact, Peter was the first of the apostles to see the risen Lord. And I suppose maybe the second to believe after John, who without seeing believed.

And now the last to find out, after eight long days of hearing from the apostles about the Lord being risen, Thomas, is in the room and the Lord comes, through the doors again, which were shut, passing through the doors, because after all, His body is a human body, but it is a transfigured human body. It's not subject to the same kind of laws that we are subject to. It doesn't get tired, it doesn't get sick. And that's the way we will be as well. The way Christ was in His transfigured body is a prophecy for us of how our bodies will be as well.

Jesus comes in and speaks very gently to Thomas. He says, "Alright, I know what you need. You need to touch Me. Feel the prints of the nails in my hands. Feel the slit in my side, and be not faithless, but believing."12 And then Thomas has the privilege of being the first of the apostles to proclaim unambiguously, in clear terms, the dual nature of Christ's humanity and His divinity. It is the first confession of faith in the scriptures, where Christ is proclaimed God and man openly. He says, "My Lord and my God!"13 Thomas had to wait awhile, but God gave him that great privilege of almost, shall we say, beginning the symbol of faith14. What a great privilege it was.

In the coming week we will be speaking about the myrrh-bearing women15, and there is a theme throughout the story of the myrrh-bearing women of their continuing enlightenment, just like for Thomas or for Peter or for Luke and Cleopas or for the other apostles. And then we go onto the blind man and the lame man, the paralytic. We see how the resurrection is applied. Why does the church do this? Why do we speak of things that have to do with enlightenment and healing right after Pascha? Well, because the resurrection applies to us in our life now. It's very important to understand this. That's why I have been speaking of it so often. It's very important to understand, because you must know that God has given you the ability to be able to get rid of your sins, of your passions, of the problems in your life that are making you to be away from God. You have the ability, through the resurrection. And all these examples of people that partially believed, even the great apostles, who were at times disbelievers, at times were cowards, at times were at odds with each other and vied amongst themselves who would be greatest, and all the other things -- even them -- the Lord purified them, and brought them to a great wholeness.

If He can do it with them and do it with all the others examples in the scriptures, with the paralytic and the blind man and the woman at the well, named Photini16, and all the others, then He can do it with us. I tell you, the resurrection is not something that you believe in as an event that occurred in the past. Nor is it something that you believe, and say that it will happen in the future, like Mary and Martha did, saying, "Oh Lord, I believe in the resurrection. In the last day, all will be resurrected."17 When their brother Lazarus lay dead, and Christ showed them, "I am the resurrection. If I live in you, then you are resurrected now, not later." It is very important to understand this.

A Christian who understands that Christ's becoming man makes him able to do holy things will not fall prey to despondency. Despondency is really the negation of belief in God, you know. Despondency is a type of atheism. You should fear despondency and confess it every time. It is a terrible sin, because in it, you are rejecting the resurrection. God can save you, and God will save you if you live the Christian life. Yes, indeed, you must consider yourself unworthy of salvation, but you must also know that Christ has promised it.

So live as a Christian, fast as a Christian, think as a Christian, and when you cannot do things properly, when you do things that are sinful, run to confession with the sure hope the sure knowledge, that God will receive your repentance, because of the resurrection. I tell you if you live in the light of the resurrection, you will not become despondent. As a pastor I believe that the number one sin I see is despondency. Sometimes it is cloaked, so that people can have a sin and may be despondent about it, but not so noticeably despondent, so that it is a sort of semi-excuse.

And sometimes it is because people really desire to change, and they just can't believe that they can really change. Mary and Martha couldn't believe that their brother would be resurrected after four days. The apostles, many of them, could not believe that our Lord, Who spoke of the resurrection over and over and over again, could be resurrected. It took many proofs for some of them, such as Thomas, and the other ones as well. You know, it says "Many things the Lord did, many signs He did, but not everything is written in this book."18 By the way, as an aside, you realize that the Lord taught the apostles so much that is not written down, that is part of our holy tradition now. The apostles transmitted it to their disciples, and so on. It wasn't written down, but it was precious, and St. John only in a dark way refers to it.

So today we see an example of a man, Thomas, enlightened. Christ went out of His way to enlighten him. He sort of accorded him special treatment, as it were. And Thomas believed, and he confessed. Christ did and does the same thing for us, to bring us to enlightenment. And now we must believe and confess.

Now He said something else that's very important, important not to pass over. He said, before Thomas didn't see this, but our Lord said it many other times when Thomas heard. He said, "As the Father hath sent me, so send I you."19 And by extension, it is the same for us. No, we don't have the role of the apostles. We are not bishops, and we don't have the grace that has been bestowed upon the apostles, but we are sent along basically the same path: the path of obedience to the same gospel, the path of obedience to the commandments of our God, the life in the church, and everything that living as an Orthodox Christian entails. Later on, just after this reading in fact, the disciples, seven of them, are fishing, and the Lord tells them to let down their nets, and they had a catch, and then Peter is told to bring the catch to the shore, a hundred and fifty and three fishes, and yet the net did not break.20 And later, after they ate, our Lord restored Peter by asking him three times, "Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me?" and then He showed him how he would die.21 This is tied in with when He was saying, "As my Father hath sent Me, so send I you."

We must use Christ as the example of how to live, whether as an apostle or whether as anyone else. The Christian life is one of difficulty and one of strife. We are in the light of the resurrection, but we can never get far away from knowing that our life is a difficult one. We make it so because of our sins, sometimes, and other times because of the evil of the world surrounding us. Follow the example of the saints. Follow the example of the apostles. Live as they lived, which means you live the life in the church.

And brothers and sisters, always believe that the resurrection applies to you, now. Fear disbelief in it. Every time you fall into despondency, berate yourself for being a fool and gazing into an empty tomb, and wondering where the Lord is. Don't be like this. Believe in the resurrection, and believe that you can be changed, and through struggle, arduous struggle, through many tears, through ups and downs, and even in the midst of your sins, God will perfect you, but you must believe. Amen.

Answers to Questions about Appearances

ANSWER 1
The appearances of Jesus after His resurrection are recounted in a series of 11 gospels that are read serially in the Sunday matins service. Each one of these readings also has a matching set of 2 hymns which are sung at the end of matins after the Sunday Exapostilarion (Holy is the Lord our God...) and the last sticheron of the praises (after the refrain "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit"). These hymns are called the Exapostilarion of the resurrection with its matching Theotokion and the Doxasticon of the Resurrection.
The Exapostilarion and Doxastikon summarize and emphasize certain aspects of the Gospel selection, in a leisurely and poetic way.

ANSWER 2
The Holy Scriptures record 4 times when Jesus appeared to all or most of the apostles.

The first appearance was to all the "eleven" save Thomas on the day of Christ's resurrection, when He entered their room at night, even though the doors where locked. The second was to all the apostles, with Thomas, eight days later.
St John reports these first two appearances (in the ninth matins resurrection Gospel, John 20:19-31):

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. {20} And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)
...
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. {25} The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. {26} And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. (John 20:24-26)

The 3rd reported appearance was when he beckoned to 7 of them from the shore, and told them to let down their nets, and they caught a great multitude of fish.
(This is reported in the 10th Matins Resurrection Gospel, John 21:1-14)

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself. {2} There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. {3} Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. {4} But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. {5} Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. {6} And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. (John 21:1-6)

The last recorded appearance is by St Matthew at the very end of his gospel
(Matt 28:16-20, the 1st matins resurrection Gospel). St Matthew only gives a quick summary of events after the resurrection, mentioning only one appearance of Jesus to the apostles, which must have been after the previous three:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. {17} And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. {18} And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. {19} Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Mat 28:16-20)

ANSWER 3
On the day of the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to (in order) Mary Magdalene, two disciples who were in the country, to Peter alone, and to the eleven in the upper room (save Thomas). St Luke's account shows this order.
(See the 5th Matins Gospel, Luke 24:12-35,and the 6th, Luke 24:36-53)
Blessed Theophylact explains the texts especially well.

Therefore, among the disciples and apostles, Christ appeared first to the 2 disciples out in the country (see another question), and among the apostles, Peter was the first to see the risen Lord.

The first apostle to believe in the resurrection was St John, who believed after seeing the empty tomb in the early morning, according to his own account:

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. {2} Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. {3} Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. {4} So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. {5} And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. {6} Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, {7} And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. {8} Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. {9} For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. (John 20:1-9, the 7th matins Gospel of the Resurrection)

"'Twas the Belovèd Disciple John, whose heart was pure and undimmed by timidity, who before all others descried the light of the risen Christ through spiritual eyes; and with his bodily Eyes did he behold the manifested Lord."
(Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Paschal Epistle, 1956, Paris (see http://www.rocor.org.letters) Note that the "one whom Jesus loved" is a code that St John uses for himself. We know this from Holy Tradition, as the scripture is not absolutely explicit about the identity of this man (since St. John is the only evangelist to use this expression, we cannot reasonably expect him to explain it!) It is interesting to note that even among those who substantially reject Holy Tradition and subscribe to the unscriptural notion that the entire revelation from God is ONLY in the scriptures believe that this man was John. Such rejecters believe in and are dependant on more Holy Tradition than they are aware of, including more than just incidental information like this, such as the very councils that established the canon of scripture, and carefully defined doctrines of the two natures and wills of Christ, and many other things. May God lead them to the fullness of true belief.

ANSWER 4
Mary Magdalene is cited by St Mark as being the first to see the risen Christ:

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
(Mark 16:9), part of the 3rd matins resurrection Gospel, Mark 16:9-20) This scripture would seem to decide the matter, but the holy tradition of the church, which is able to discern things spiritually, speaks otherwise. The very fact that from Pascha till the eve of the Ascension the church chants the beautiful hymn:

"The angel cried unto her who is full of grace, [saying] 'Rejoice, rejoice O Pure Virgin; again I say, rejoice! For thy Son is risen from the grave on the third day.'" (St. John of Damascus)

serves to indicate that there is a hidden story in the scriptures concerning the Mother of God and her risen Son. St Gregory Palamas eloquently explains this hidden treasure of knowledge, in a sermon about the Holy Myrrh-bearers. Only a small part of that sermon is shown below, so that you will see this wonderful truth.

...After the resurrection, the first person who saw Him was a woman, as we heard in Mark's gospel reading: "Now when Jesus was risen in the morning of the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene." (Mk 16:9)

Clearly, it would appear therefore that the Evangelist stated both the time of Christ's resurrection, that is, the morning, and that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and at precisely the time of His arising. But that is not what it really says, as will be evident when we study the matter a little more closely, because the Evangelist previously said, in agreement with the other Evangelists, that this woman named Mary came to the tomb earlier, "very early in the morning" (v 16:2), with the other myrrhbearing women. And when they found the tomb empty they departed.
...
Now, there is something mentioned by the Evangelists in a very shadowy way and I will reveal it to you. Indeed the good news of the Lord's resurrection, as is proper and fitting, was received from Him first by the Theotokos, prior to all other men. Also prior to all others, she saw Him and delighted in His divine speaking. And she not only saw Him with her own eyes and heard Him with her own ears, but she alone first touched His sacred feet with her own hands.

However, the Evangelists do not say these things openly, because they did not wish to present the testimony of His Mother so they would not be giving unbelievers an excuse for suspicion. But now, through the grace of Him who is risen, we can explain it to the faithful.
...
I surmise and gather from all the Evangelists, therefore, that the Theotokos was the first person to come to the tomb of the Son of God, accompanied by Mary Magdalene. I conclude this mainly from the Evangelist Matthew, because he says, "...Mary Magdalene came and the other Mary" (Matt 28:1), Who was most certainly the Mother of God, to see the tomb. "And behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone from the entrance, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his rainment white as snow. And for fear of him, the keepers trembled and became as dead." (v.2-8) All the other women, therefore, came after the earthquake and after the guards fled, and found the tomb open and the stone moved away. But the Mother of God arrived at the moment the earthquake was happening, the stone was being moved and the tomb was opened. The guards, although very shaken, were still present, and after the quake they rose up seeking to flee. But the Mother of God rejoiced beholding this scene. It seems to me that the life-bearing tomb was opened first of all for her, because through her all things were opened to us, all that is above in heaven and below on earth; and for her the angel so shone that, despite the darkness of the hour, she was able to see by the fullness of the angel's light not only the empty tomb but also the grave clothes neatly put aside and testifying to the resurrection of Him Who had been entombed.

Obviously, the evangelizing angel was Gabriel himself, because the moment he saw her rushing to the tomb, he, who in the beginning had said to her, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God" (Lk.1: 30), hastens now and descends to tell the Ever-virgin the same thing again and to announce the resurrection from the dead of Him Who without seed was born from her, and to lift the stone and display the empty tomb and the grave clothes in order to confirm the good news.

ANSWER 5
Luke and Cleophas walked with the risen Christ as they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. These 2 disciples had heard reports of the resurrection from the women, but were unable to believe. As they walked, Christ joined them, and expounded many things from the scriptures to them. At the end of their journey, as they ate, Jesus broke bread and blessed it, and it was only at this point that they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight. Even though they had traveled the whole day and it was late, they immediately hurried back to Jerusalem, travelling late into the night, and joining the eleven who had also seen the risen Christ, while they were coming back to Jerusalem.

This moving story is the 5th matins resurrection gospel. (Luke 24:13-35)
It is read on Bright Tuesday matins, as well as taking its place in the rotation of the 11 Gospels read during Sunday matins. This Gospel is therefore read on the 5th, 16th, and 27th Sundays after Pentecost. The total number of readings in most years is 4.

ANSWER 6
Angels were heavily involved in making the news of the resurrection manifest, both by announcing it, and by rolling away the stone of the tomb. We first encounter God's messengers in the very early morning:

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. {2} And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. {3} His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: {4} And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. {5} And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. {6} He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.(Mat 28:1-6)

Note that in this case, the two women were not bringing myrrh to anoint the Lord, but were only going to investigate the tomb. The "other Mary" is understood to be the Mother of God. After the announcement by the angel, Mary Magdalene went away, but the Theotokos stood by, and it was at this time that the angel gave to her a second "annunciation", that her Son was risen, and then Christ appeared to her. Mary Magdalene was filled with joy and fear, but did not completely believe in the resurrection yet. Because of her ignorance, and with great love, she later hastened to the tomb to anoint the Lord Jesus, and the recording of this incident reveals the agency of two angels:

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. {2} And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. {3} And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. {4} And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: {5} And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? {6} He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, {7} Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. {8} And they remembered his words, {9} And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. {10} It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. {11} And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. (Luke 24:1-11) In this incident we see that the stone had already been rolled away from the tomb, and two angels announced to the small cadre of women the good news of the resurrection.

ANSWER 7 The Apostle Paul testified that he saw the risen Lord:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; {4} And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: {5} And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: {6} After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. {7} After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. {8} And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Cor 15:3-8)

The Apostle refers to Christ's appearance in this way because it was several years after the resurrection. He was formerly called Saul, and was a great persecutor of Christians. He met Christ on the road, as he was hurrying toward another murderous errand:

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, {2} And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. {3} And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: {4} And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? {5} And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:1-5)

ANSWER 8
On the first day of the week, that is Sunday, in the evening, Christ appeared to the 11 while they were gathered in a room, even though the doors were shut. Both St Luke and St John report this appearance, each emphasizing different things.

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (John 20:19)

The God-man Jesus Christ, Who easily left the tomb without disturbing the stone that closed it was not hindered by a closed and locked door. Our Lord's body after the resurrection teaches us something about the destiny of our bodies. Blessed Theophylact tells us that "this is how we must understand the body of the Lord after the resurrection: it is spiritual, refined, a stranger to all coarseness." (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on St Luke) Our bodies will share in these attributes.

It is not without import that our Lord's first words were to give a blessing of "Peace". Only in the risen Lord may we obtain peace.

St John goes on the mention more of what the Lord said and did, which included the important ability of His priests to remit sins:

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. {22} And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: {23} Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:21-23)

ANSWER 9
Some time during our Lord's forty days on earth after the resurrection, he appeared to seven of the disciples, who were fishing. This was an event similar to the time He called some of them to be his disciples, but with important differences, made possible by the passage of His three years of careful ministry to them. the first time the Lord told the apostles to "let down their nets" is chronicled in Luke 5:1-13. More than three years later, the risen Lord gives the same instruction, as St. John records (John 21:1-25, comprising the 10th and 11th matins resurrection gospels). In the first case, our Lord only tells them to let down their nets, but to the tested apostles he tells them to let them down on the right side, and they obediently do so, as before, and are rewarded with a staggering catch of fish, which St John carefully mentions as one hundred fifty three. He marvels that there were so many, and yet the net was not broken. When the apostles were as yet uninitiated, and unlearned in spiritual things, the catch of fish broke their nets, and even when they had brought another ship to help with catch of fish, their boats began to sink. After their education and proving, their nets hold this great catch of fish, and one boat is able to contain it, without sinking. These fishers of fish were truly made worthy and able to be great fishers of men, and their net, that is the Gospel and the Christian way of life, would never break again, but will hold all those who come to the church.

In the previous instance, Peter was filled with fear, even asking the Lord to depart from him, as the as yet uninitiated apostle felt the full weight of his sins in the presence of the God-man. In this latter case, the exuberant Peter cannot wait to be beside his Lord, and throws on his fishers cloak, and casts himself into the sea. He who formerly had fear because of his sins now has confidence, because He knows the Lord.

The first great catch of fish was too much for one ship, so another ship was pressed into service, although even it proved inadequate to contain the catch of fish. In this second ship is shown in a mystery of the organization of the church, with it's bishops who are equal brothers, and rightly divide the word of truth. In the latter case, only one ship, with the seven Apostles, was able to fulfill the word of the Lord, and land all the fish. Here we see in an even more powerful way the church, and the infinite resources those within it have to fulfill the commandments, and contain all the fish, that is, souls, who are caught in the nets of the gospel.

After the other disciples landed their boats, and Peter pulled the net full of great fishes to land in obedience to the Lord's command (for all that is done in the church is in obedience to Christ), the Lord invited them to "Come and dine".
All the apostles knew it was the Lord, and were filled with unspeakable joy.

After the meal, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and restored his faith fully. There is a deep mystery in this, which we will only understand if we live the Christian life, and experience forgiveness and knowledge, as did Peter.

ANSWER 10
Didn't you just hate it when a particularly impossible math problem was left "as an exercise to the reader" in your math textbook? Hopefully you will not mind it so much now. The answer to this question is left to, as was usually said in those snotty textbooks, as an exercise to the attentive reader. Hopefully you will do better on this question than I did on those math questions.

A few hints since I am not a math professor:
* Eleven disciples are afraid, then made glad.
* One works then takes a rest.
* Two women.
* Two young men.
* One disciple's faith is restored.
* The young one is faster than the old one.
* She now has more things to treasure in her heart.
* Their hearts burned within them.
* Gabriel is asked to repeat an important labor.
* One makes a mistake, then her weeping in turned into joy.
* No, this is not in order!

Answers to Questions about Thomas Sunday

ANSWER 1
St Thomas Sunday is the Second Sunday of Pascha, or, said another way, the first Sunday after the Sunday of Pascha.

The Gospel text for the day gives a clue as to why the celebration is at this time:

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." (John 20:19)

"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20:24-26)

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. ... " (John 20:27)

On the Sunday of St. Thomas, the Resurrectional Evlogitaria sung before the Hymns of ascent which precede the Gospel, and immediately after either the Polyeleos or 118th psalm in normal times) are not sung, and neither is the "Magnificat" ("My soul magnifies the Lord...", which is usually sung between the eighth and ninth ode of the matins canon). These hymns are omitted because the feast of St. Thomas Sunday is a "Feast of the Lord", and it supersedes EVERYTHING from the normal Resurrectional service, just as Nativity, or another feast of the Lord would.

ANSWER 2
"Having beheld the resurrection" (certainly very familiar to everyone who has sung the Paschal Hours in lieu of morning prayers during Bright week, since it is also sung three times then), is normally sung once in Sunday matins, just after the Gospel is read. During the Paschal season, until and including the
Sunday preceding Ascension Thursday, it is sung three times.

ANSWER 3
According to the Gospel of St. John, Jesus appeared unto the Apostles the first time on the evening of Pascha, with Thomas being absent, then the second time eight days later, with him being present. He originally did not believe because of the incredible reality of the resurrection. He needed to see the evidence.

ANSWER 4
The church characterizes St. Thomas' unbelief as "good", because it led to a greater manifestation of the reality of Christ's resurrection in the flesh:

"As the disciples were in doubt, / the Savior came on the eighth day / to where they were gathered and granted them peace, / and cried unto Thomas: / Come, O Apostle, and feel the palms in which they fastened the nails. / O good unbelief of Thomas, / which hath led the hearts of the faithful to knowledge! / Hence, he cried out with fear: // O my Lord and my God, glory be to Thee." (Sticheron from Lord I have cried, vespers for St. Thomas Sunday)

ANSWER 5
Just before Jesus went to Bethany to raise Lazarus, which preceded His passion week by only a little, St.
John recounts in his Gospel:

"Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die
with him." (John 11:16).

This sentiment was also expressed by the Holy Apostle Peter during the passion week:

"Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not
follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice." (John 13:36-38)

St. John Chrysostom also states quite clearly the magnificent transformation of Thomas, and his great courage:

'Now they all feared the attacks of the Jews, but Thomas above the rest; wherefore also he said, "Let us go, that we also may die with Him." Some say that he desired himself to die; but it is not so; the expression is rather one of cowardice. Yet he was not rebuked, for Christ as yet supported his weakness, but afterwards he became stronger than all, and invincible. (6) For the wonderful thing is this; that we see one who was so weak before the Crucifixion, become after the Crucifixion, and after having believed in the Resurrection, more zealous than any. So great was the power of Christ. The very man who dared not go in company with Christ to Bethany, the same while not seeing Christ ran (7) well nigh through the inhabited world, and dwelt in the midst of nations that were full of murder, and desirous to kill him.' (St. John Chrysostom, sermon on St. John's Gospel, verse 21:12)

ANSWER 6
An Old Believer Sermon, based mostly on the writings of St. John Chrysostom and Blessed Archbishop Theofylact of Bulgaria, among others, explains that the expression "My Lord and my God" indicates the dual nature of Christ. As a man, He is called Lord, as an earthly king might be, and also is God.

The Aposticha for the Vespers service echoes this idea:
"O strange wonder, / unbelief hath given birth unto steadfast faith! / For Thomas said: / Unless I see, I shall not believe. / And when he touched the side of Christ, / he spake with divine authority / concerning the Incarnate One Who is the very Son of God, / and recognized Him as the One Who suffered in the flesh. / He proclaimed the Risen God, and cried with a radiant voice: // O my Lord and my God, glory be to Thee".

When Thomas proclaimed "My Lord and My God", he was saying something wholly unique, never said before. This was the first time Jesus was explicitly called God by one of His disciples.

ANSWER 7
Jesus appeared to all the apostles save Thomas on the eve of the day of the Resurrection - Sunday evening. He did not appear again unto them until eight days later, when Thomas was with them.

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst ... But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst..." (John 20:19a, 24,26a)

ANSWER 8
Jesus gave the apostles, and whom they would appoint, and their successors, down through the ages, the authority to bind and loose sins. A priest (or bishop, of course), usually exercises this authority and responsibility in the sacrament of confession.

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. ... Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:19,21-23)

ANSWER 9
The Holy Apostle Thomas spread the gospel to India, where he courageously met his end, being run through with five lances.

ANSWER 10
On the day of Pascha, a portion of the story of the doubting of Thomas is read during Vespers. This Gospel is usually read in many languages, often in three short sections. The next week, on St. Thomas Sunday, the entire selection read during vespers is read again, and the story is finished, during the Divine Liturgy. This is the only time when a part of a gospel is read one week, then the reading is completed the next week. It is also not common to read a gospel selection in daily vespers.

Gleanings from the Fathers

The Personal Meaning of the Resurrection

"When you hear that at that time the Lord freed the souls from hell and the regions of darkness and that He descended into hell and did an amazing work, do not think that this does not have any personal meaning for you. Man, indeed, can readily accept the evil one. Death has its grip on the children of Adam and their thoughts are imprisoned in darkness. And when you hear mention made of tombs, do not at once think only of visible ones. For your heart is a tomb and a sepulcher. When the prince of evil and his angels have built their nest there and have built roads and highways on which the powers of Satan walk about inside your mind and in your thoughts, then really, are you not a hell and a sepulcher and a tomb dead to God? ... But the Lord descends into the souls of those who seek Him. He goes into the depths of the hellish heart and there He commands death, saying, "Release those captive souls that seek after me, those that you hold by force in bondage." He breaks through the heavy stones that cover the soul. He opens the tombs. He truly raises to life the dead person and leads that captive soul forth out of the dark prison."
St. Macarius, Homily 13. 11

"Redeeming the Time" is an almost weekly Journal of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas. Distribute this text if you wish, but only if attribution and all contact information are included. I would appreciate being contacted if any large-scale use of this text is desired. All unsigned or unattributed portions (c) 1999 Fr Seraphim Holland. All rights reserved

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1 Cf. one of the stichera at Vespers: "When Thou didst enter, O Christ, while the doors were shut, / Thomas, who was called the Twin, was not with them. / Wherefore, he doubted what was told him, / thus by unbelief confirming his belief. / And Thou, O Good One, didst not disdain to show him / Thine immaculate side and the wounds of Thy hands and feet. / Wherefore, having felt and beheld, / he confessed that Thou art neither naked God nor mere man, // and he cried: O my Lord and my God, glory be to Thee."
2 (Acts 5:15) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
3 (John 20:19,24) Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. ... {24} But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

4 Judas was dead, Thomas was gone, and the replacement for Judas (Matthias) had not been elected yet. This leaves ten.
5 John 20:20
6 (John 20:1-8) The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. {2} Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. {3} Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. {4} So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. {5} And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. {6} Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, {7} And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. {8} Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.
7 (Luke 24:10-12) It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. {11} And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. {12} Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.
8 (John 20:11-16) But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, {12} And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. {13} And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. {14} And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. {15} Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. {16} Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
9 Ibid.
10 Luke 24:13-33
11 We understand this from holy tradition, and the scripture: (Luke 24:33-35) And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, {34} Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. {35} And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

12 Cf. (John 20:27) Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
13 John 20:28
14 The Symbol of faith is also known as the "Nicene Creed".
15 The Sunday of the Myrhbearers is the 3rd Sunday of Pascha (counting Pascha as the 1st Sunday of Pascha)
16 The Samaritan Woman, whom the church knows as St Photini (5th Sunday of Pascha)
17 Cf. John 11, and especially (John 11:23-26) Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. {24} Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. {25} Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: {26} And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

18 (John 21:25) And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
19 John 20:21
20 John 21:11
21 Cf. John 21:15-19


NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 4

A NOTE ABOUT PRAYER DURING THE PENTECOSTARION PERIOD

Fasting is relaxed a little bit this month.

BABY SHOWER

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF THE HOLY MYRRH-BEARERS

MORE! QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HOLY MYRRH- BEARERS

WHAT HAS THE FEAST OF PASCHA LEFT IN OUR SOULS?

THE HOLY MYRRHBEARERS

"WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE?"

ON THE SUNDAY OF THE MYRRHBEARERS

"THY SON IS RISEN"

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF THE HOLY MYRRH-BEARERS

MORE ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF THE HOLY MYRRH-BEARERS

News and Announcements

A Note About Prayer During the Pentecostarion Period


The prayer to the Holy Spirit, "O Heavenly King", said in almost every Orthodox prayer service, is NOT said from Paschal Matins (the first service of the Pentecostarion), which begins at midnight on the Sunday of Pascha, until the Vespers service for Pentecost. Anywhere this prayer occurs it is omitted, and until Ascension Thursday, is substituted with the Paschal troparion (Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life), sung three times. We are like the Apostles during this period, "waiting" for the Holy Spirit to come, and the absence of this prayer makes a strong statement of our profound need for the Holy Spirit.
Also, during this time, we do not normally do prostrations, unless our spiritual father instructs us to do them for some reason. In any case, no prostrations are done in the church until the day of Pentecost.

Fasting is relaxed a little bit this month.

On Wednesday and Friday we may always have wine and olive oil. On a few of the days, we can also have fish.

Baby Shower


St. Nicholas Parish is growing! We eagerly await the arrival of our newest member, Masha and Maxim's baby in June. In honor of this member, the Parish is hosting a baby shower for Masha and Maxim.
* WHEN: Saturday, May 20, 2000 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.
* WHERE: The Church!
* WHO: Everyone!

Questions about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers


QUESTION 1
The Gospel reading for the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing women includes the name of one man. There was another man also involved who was mentioned in another place. Describe who they were and what they did. Don't just describe cold historical facts - what do their actions mean?

QUESTION 2
When is the Sunday of the myrrh-bearers? Why?

QUESTION 3
The church names how many myrrh bearers? List them.

QUESTION 4
Where was Jesus buried? Is there any significant meaning to this place?

QUESTION 5
A great stone was rolled across the entrance to the sepulchre, sealing it. Can we understand anything from this?

QUESTION 6
The myrrh the women carried symbolizes something we must also "carry" to Christ. What?

QUESTION 7
Where was the angel in the tomb? Any significance to this?

QUESTION 8
What were the angel's instructions? Were they understood? Were they followed?

QUESTION 9
The angel singled out a single person to tell of the resurrection, apart from the rest of the disciples as a group. Whom? Why?

QUESTION 10
St Mark reports of the honorable counselor Joseph:

"And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre." (Mark 15:46)

How should we think of this "fine linen", and does it instruct us in any way?

More! Questions about the Holy Myrrh- bearers

QUESTION 1 Who is commemorated the 3rd Sunday of Pascha? Name ALL the names.
QUESTION 2 Who was the myrrh bearer who was the mother of two of the apostles?
QUESTION 3 One of the myrrh bearers was married to one of the seventy apostles, who saw the risen Lord before the eleven. Who was she, and who was her husband?

QUESTION 4
Which 2 myrrh bearers were sisters?

QUESTION 5
One myrrh bearer was demon possessed and cured by Christ. Who? How many devils? What Pascha tradition is she responsible for?

QUESTION 6
What was the contribution to the burial of Christ of the men commemorated today?

QUESTION 7
Why were the myrrh-bearing women going to the tomb early Sunday morning? According to the teaching of the fathers and services, what was the nature of their thoughts? Why did they not do this earlier?

QUESTION 8
The Gospels mention a "Mary the mother of Joses", and "Mary the mother of James the less". Who was this Mary?

QUESTION 9
What were the women concerned about at that very early hour as they went to the tomb to anoint a dead body? What obstacle was curiously missing from their worried thoughts? What happened? Describe the instructions they were given, and in particular, why a particular apostle was singled out by name.

QUESTION 10
Which myrrh hearer was affiliated in some way with Herod?

WHAT HAS THE FEAST OF PASCHA LEFT IN OUR SOULS?
by St. John Of Kronstadt

And so, the Feast of Feasts has passed by us: and the Royal Gates in the Lord's temples are shut; and the service is no longer as triumphant as it was during Bright Week. What, then, brethren, has this feast left in our souls? Christian holidays, you see, do not pass before us, one after another, just to leave our souls idle, but in order to discharge us from the cares and affairs of life's concerns; to put it another way: the Lord provides us with holidays in order that we might temporarily put aside thinking about, concerning ourselves with, rejoicing at, grieving over, that which is worldly, earthly, quick to pass; but, instead, that we might meditate upon, concern ourselves with, rejoice at, that which is heavenly and eternal. It was precisely for this reason, as well, that the holiday just past was given us.
The Lord made us worthy of beholding the all-radiant feast of Christ's Resurrection in order that we might descry in it the first-fruits of the universal resurrection of all mankind in that last day of the world: Christ rose from the dead, being the first-fruits of those who had died (Cor. 15, 20), says the Word of God. It was for us, you see, that the Lord suffered, died, was buried, and arose: and His death, burial and resurrection is, as it were, our own death, burial and resurrection. It is for this reason that we sang during Matins of Bright Week: yesterday was I interred with Thee, O Christ; conjointly with Thee do I rise today (Pascha. Can. Ode 3, Trop. 2). Yes, we all of us, invariably, shall rise up; and we all look for, i.e., await, the resurrection of the dead. This is as certain as it is certain that there will be a day tomorrow. Has this ever entered your heads; have you given any thought to this during the holiday? Yet it was necessary to think upon this, without fail. All the great holidays of the Church, -- and the Feast of Pascha, in particular, -- remind us of our redemption, through Jesus Christ, from the age to come.
But such a one as believes in his resurrection from the dead, the same prepares here for the future life; attempts to live in accordance with the commandments of the Lord; honors the feasts of the Lord; and takes care not to offend against their sanctity through deeds of carnal impurity. And what was done among us, us Orthodox Christians, on this radiant Feast? It is shameful even to speak of it; but it is necessary to do so. Christians, to the great grief of Holy Mother the Church, turned the bright days of Pascha Week into dark days, days deserving of tears and lamentation. So very many celebrated not the feast of Christ's Resurrection, and our own resurrection from dead works, but a feast of demonic resurrection in their souls. The Great Fast was a defeat of, was death for, the devil; because he fled from many souls and died to them, as it were, after their sincere repentance and communion of the Holy Mysteries; but on the feast of Pascha he rose again in not a few souls. How did he arise? Through gluttony, drunkenness, outrage and other vices that drunkenness gives rise to, and to which many Christians gave themselves over. It is thus that Christians love Christ; it is thus that they celebrate the greatest holiday of the year! What benefit is there in such people calling themselves Christians? Many pagans live better lives than that and, without a doubt, are more worthy in God's eyes than are they. Those of other [non-Christian] faiths and those who are not Orthodox, who dwell in our city [Kronstadt] are astonished at such behavior, and on so great a holiday, and say: there are the Christians, for you; there are the Orthodox, for you! They celebrate like real pagans, and on such a holiday, yet! That is what those of other faiths and those who are not Orthodox say of us. But what does the Lord Himself say of our holidays; or, more precisely -- of our observance of them? My soul hateth your festivals, and I cannot bear the great day, saith the Lord, I am surfeited; I will no more pardon your sins (Esaias 1, 14).

Brethren! Whom have we begun to resemble? To what extent have we given ourselves over to forgetfulness? And the word of Scripture is being fulfilled in us in all its force: and man, being in honor, understandeth not; he is compared to senseless cattle and hath become like unto them (Ps. 48: 13, 21). Christ the Lord hath honored us with His name; He hath washed us with His blood; he hath made of us a chosen people, an holy nation ([I] Pet. 2: 9); while we insolently, madly, have despised God's mercy and dishonor ourselves by all means of dissolute acts. Do not flatter yourselves, brethren: neither thieves, nor murderers, nor fornicators, nor adulterers shall inherit the Kingdom of God (I Cor. 6; 9, 10). Yes, if you do not cease from behaving thus, especially on holy days which, according to the Lord's commandment, should be consecrated and sanctified, then ye will not see the Kingdom of God.
Brethren! It is extremely necessary for us to behave more wisely, and to attend more closely to ourselves, during the feasts of the Lord. The Lord will call us strictly to account for our foolish revelry. It is not according to the flesh, as do those who worship idols; but, rather, according to the spirit, that we should celebrate our holidays; although even bodily celebration, if it occurs together with the spiritual, is permitted and is not hateful to the Lord; but, in that case, it must never exceed the bounds of moderation. God is spirit (John 4, 24; 2 Cor. 3, 17); our soul, redeemed by the Savior, is spirit: therefore should our holidays be more spiritual than fleshly. Such a one as celebrates only bodily, the same celebrates not unto God, but unto his idol -- the belly; or, which is all the same, to the demon of intemperance. God deliver everyone from such feasts! The abundance of material viands is permitted to Christians on holidays to the glory of God, in order that we might eat and drink in moderation, thanking God Who, together with spiritual joy, sends us bodily consolation, also, in the variety and sweetness of the viands and beverages, in order that our joy might not be wanting. But spiritual joy on a holiday must always surpass that of the body; while, with us -- it is the opposite. It is said, in God's commandment: remember the Sabbath day, and sanctify it (Ex. 20, 8); in our language of the New Testament, this means: remember the Day of Resurrection; do not forget its holiness and try to sanctify it yourself by your good deeds.
O Lord! Grant that we might always remember Thy commandment concerning how we are to celebrate holy days; that we might keep it holy and be well-pleasing unto Thee with spiritual celebration. Amen.

Originally translated into English for "The Light Of Orthodoxy," Spring 1983, by G. Spruksts, from the Russian text appearing in _Solntse Pravdy: O zhizni i uchenii Gospoda Nashego Iisusa Khrista_ ["The Sun Of Righteousness: Concerning the Life and Teaching Of Our Lord Jesus Christ"] by Protopriest Ioann (Sergiev) [of Kronstadt], Chapter 5, pp. 297 - 301. Reprinted by permission. English-language translation copyright (c) 1983, 1998 by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Translator. All rights reserved.

The Holy Myrrhbearers

"Who will roll away the stone?"

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen!

Today is the third Sunday after Pascha, and it is the Sunday of the myrrh-bearing women. And it is quite an interesting reading which we have, because of these women and these men, Joseph of Arimathaea, who is mentioned today, and also Nicodemus1, who is not mentioned in this Gospel (but is mentioned in St. John's Gospel), who acted with great love, but also in great ignorance. They were trying to do something that they were not going to be able to accomplish. These women wanted to anoint the Lord with myrrh, and Joseph and Nicodemus had prepared the Lord's body so carefully, wrapping it in clean, fine linen. Myrrh and aloes had been applied, according to the custom of the Jews. They carefully placed our Lord's body in Joseph's tomb that had been hewn out of a rock2. All this they did in ignorance. They acted without full knowledge, but with great desire and with great love.

There is a lesson for us. Pascha is God making man able to know God. This is really what Pascha is. It is not an event only; it is a fundamental change in human nature. The God-man becoming incarnate made us able to live. He accomplished our salvation by His death and His resurrection, and basically all of the period from Pascha to Pentecost we think about how He enlightens us and about the practical ramifications of what Pascha means for the soul. In essence, it means enlightenment. It means to know God. But to know God you have to be able to live like God, and you must live in virtue before you have full enlightenment.

These women and these two men, Joseph and Nicodemus, acted with great love for our Savior, but in ignorance. The women came to anoint a body, and there was no body to anoint. Joseph and Nicodemus prepared so carefully a dead man, who was already alive, and in Hades, and in only a few hours would show Himself as resurrected. So they acted in ignorance. And there is a lesson for us because we don't know the whole story. We don't know very much, in fact, and we are ignorant of many things. We are ignorant even of what God wants to give to us. Part of that is our own fault because too few of us read the Scriptures very carefully or because we are wrapped up in worldly things and don't really think of holy things very much. If you don't think of holy things, you're not going to master them, you know. I wish some people knew about the Bible as well as they knew about a 56 Chevy manual. Some people understand about things like that better than they understand the Gospel. We poor Christians are too willfully ignorant, because of our worldly choices and misdirected priorities.

Much of our ignorance is really because we are not able to assimilate all that God has give to us. But that should not stop us. These women came to the tomb early in the morning. The early hour is mentioned because to get up early is a difficult thing. It shows that the first thing on their mind was Christ. As soon as they could go and anoint the body, according to the Jewish law, they did, and they brought myrrh and ointments. These myrrh and ointments signify bringing to Christ our good works, bringing to Christ our desire to live as He has shown us to live. They didn't come to Him empty-handed, as we unfortunately so often do. They came to Him bearing what they could, giving what they could. Even though it was the wrong gift, God received it because it was out of love that they bore this gift.

Myrrh also has an interesting property. It is a desiccant, and will dry out things and preserve them, and it's very sweet smelling. So let us dry out that which is wet in us, the passions. Let us dry it out with the heat of the Holy Spirit, and let us make ourselves sweet as myrrh smells sweet, and the ointment smells sweet.

Now the women went to a tomb that was hewn out of a rock. St. Luke had said that never had a man been laid in it. It was a new tomb, unused, undefiled, and to hew a tomb out of a rock takes great work. It is very, very difficult, especially in that age with that technology. This tomb is the place where we would put Christ. The rock removed represents work we must do to our soul. We must hew out a place for Christ. This involves effort; this involves desire, toil. I've said it before and I'll say it a thousand times again if God gives me breath. I believe the greatest heresy ever in the history of man is that salvation can be garnered without labor. This idea that only faith is needed, and not works. This is the greatest of the heresies. We must not subscribe to it. We must hew the tomb out of the rock. We must make a place for Christ to be, for Him to abide.

Now the women, when they were walking to the tomb, they were talking amongst themselves, saying, "Who's going to roll away the stone?" They were afraid, you know, for to do such a thing was to mark them for death. And also they were frail women. How were they going to roll away a great stone that takes a great many men to roll in front of the tomb? Well, if we will go to the tomb with our ointments, our stone will be rolled away, too. And what is that stone? That stone is what covers up the heart and makes us unable to see, or even sometimes to feel God, to become like Him. We have a stone in front of our hearts many times. God will roll it away. The angel is all-powerful, and he moved the stone with no effort at all. The women were not able to do it, and neither are we, although we are required to make some effort to do so.

I'm struck again and again when I read this passage: the women were walking to the tomb, and they had no way to roll away the stone, and they had no clue how it was going to happen, and they went despite all this! This stone is the things that assail us, our sins and our passions, which each one of us can mention, only in our heart of hearts, I'm sure. Some things we can't even mention aloud when we are the only one in the room. There are sins and passions that assail us. We cannot gain ascendancy over them. These sins, these difficulties, this jealousy, this anger, this lust, this laziness, this feeling of despondency, this feeling of worthlessness, these wicked habits that seem to take us over, despite our best intentions. I could name a dozen or two dozen other sins. These things are a large stone, in front of our tomb, the place where we want to put Christ.

God will roll it away, but we must go to this tomb. We must not say, "I don't know how it's going to be taken care of, and therefore, I'm not going to go." The women didn't do that. What they did, I want to impress upon you, brothers and sisters, was completely unrealistic. There was no reason for them to think that the tomb would be open, but they went. They didn't even think about it. They were outside of themselves. Love does that. Love for Christ makes us struggle even though there is a stone over our hearts, and we don't know how this stone will be moved. But we go anyway. We fast anyway, we come to the church anyway, we confess anyway. We say our prayers and force ourselves to pray in the morning and in the evening. We force ourselves to do things that are righteous, and the things that we are not able to change, that is, that big stone, God will move. This is only if we go to the tomb, only if we struggle.

These women didn't understand that they were going to anoint the God-man Who was risen from the dead. Their knowledge wasn't perfect, but their love was perfect, and because of their love, God enlightened them. It took quite some effort. They didn't even understand the first time when the angel spoke to them, and they trembled and were afraid and they forgot the command and they didn't tell the apostles the first time3. But they went back another time, and then they saw the risen Lord! And the apostles were the same way. They couldn't believe it the first time. The only one who believed with the first evidence was John4. Everyone else couldn't believe. It was too terrible, too wonderful for them, too outside of their understanding. God enlightened them, stepwise, a little bit at a time. This is what He does with us, but only if we make a great effort in our lives.

Christianity is very simple. The light of Christ illumines all men. We walk in this light, while there is the light, as the Savior says5, and as we walk in this light, God gives us more light, more to see, more to spur us on. And we increase in knowledge and in virtue. It is impossible for a man to increase in knowledge without increasing in virtue or vice-versa, because the two are linked. The two are two sides of the same coin. To know Christ is to become like Him.

Now you and I, we are poor ones. We know very little. We don't know how to pray the prayer of the heart. We don't know how to cease jealousy when someone gains some position that we wanted. We don't know how to return goodness for evil. When someone rails against us, in our heart we tremble with ill feeling. These are the stones that we cannot turn away. We need help for these stones. And as a pastor, my prayer for you, my plea to God, is that all of you would believe in the resurrection and believe that these things that are assailing you will be removed. I pray that you will not fall into despondency, and look at the size of the stone and not believe that it cannot be changed, because then you will fall into disbelief and basically atheism and you won't be believers in the resurrection, nor in He Who was resurrected. And if you do not believe in the resurrection, that stone will stay there, in front of the tomb, and you will remain unenlightened, and basically, unchanged.

See how marvelous the scriptures are? In a few short words they sum up the whole of the Christian life. We struggle to follow Christ in the light that He has given. Some of us may have a little more light than others at this point in our life. We struggle, enabled by the light we've been given, and more light comes. And the things that we believed impossible, they are possible. All things are possible with God, but I tell you, it is not possible to be saved unless you struggle. God will only save those who have desire. He'll save many who had desire and didn't do a very good job of it. He'll save many who sinned grievously but desired to change6. But He will not save those who did not struggle to change, and who had the audacity to gaze into the empty tomb, and to still believe that the stone in front in their tomb could not be moved. We must believe the stone can be, indeed, WILL BE moved.

We must live this, and the key is in living virtuously. There's no replacement for it, because if we live virtuously, not only will God enlighten us more, we will also gain confidence. You know, some of you are still children, but those of us who were children, remember when you did something bad, and your mother or father or aunt or uncle didn't know about it when they came into the room? You know your feeling, that feeling of great guilt. But when you were doing something right -- I assume when we were kids we did something right! -- when you were doing things right you felt good when they came into the room. You felt at peace. Our virtues, small though they may be, will gain us confidence that God will change those things that we cannot change yet.

Believe this, brothers and sisters. Take your myrrh and your aloes and your ointment, no matter how small the flask is, take it to the tomb. Believe that the stone will be rolled away. Just continue to go to the tomb. That is our entire life, that trek to the tomb. And if you believe it, God will remove the stone, but only if you live according to the light. May God help you to live in the light of the resurrection, to live with virtue, and to believe, to believe the stone will be removed. Christ will have a place to abide in you, and you will be full of joy. May God help you in this. Christ is risen!

On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers

"Thy Son is Risen"

The following is taken from "The Ark" # 37, April 1994
by George Gabriel

During the Church's Paschal period, from the Matins of the
Resurrection of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ to
the eve of His Ascension on the 40th day, the primary hymn to the
Mother of God is the much loved,

The angel cried unto her who is full of grace, [saying] 'Rejoice, rejoice O Pure Virgin; again I say, rejoice! For thy Son is risen from the grave on the third day.'
(St John of Damascus)

It reminds us that the Archangel Gabriel, the Angel of the Annunciation, delivered a _second annunciation_ to the Virgin. Thirty-four years after the first Annunciation, he returned to greet her at the empty tomb of Christ, saying,

"Be joyous, O Pure Virgin. I have come to say once again, rejoice! For now I announce to you this is the third day and your
Son is risen from the grave."

Christians have chanted this _second annunciation_ for well over a millenium. It was always a part of the consciousness of the Church that the risen Lord appeared first to His Mother who, accompanied by Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb "very early in the morning, while it was yet dark." She who, in a cave, brought Him incarnate into the world, from a cave now receives Him, the Incarnate Vanquisher of Hades, back in the world.

On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, in 1351, St Gregory Palamas, the great champion of Orthodoxy and Archbishop of Thessaloniki, delivered the following homily about the Mother of God as the first person to see, hear, and touch the risen Lord.

Homily on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, in the year 1351
by St Gregory Palamas
(translated from Greek and abridged by George Gabriel)
(From "The Ark" #37, April 1994)

The resurrection of the Lord is the renewal of human nature. It is
a new life and a new creation, and the return to the immortal life
of the first Adam, who through sin swallowed death, and through
death returned to the earth from which he was made.

Just as in the beginning, there was no one else to see Adam being made and receiving life, and later the first person to see him was a woman, likewise when the second Adam, who is the Lord, was rising from the dead, no man saw Him. For no one of His own was present, and the soldiers who guarded the tomb "had become as dead." But after the resurrection, the first person who saw Him was a woman, as we heard in Mark's gospel reading: "Now when Jesus was risen in the morning of the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene." (Mk 16:9)

Clearly, it would appear therefore that the Evangelist stated both the time of Christ's resurrection, that is, the morning, and that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and at precisely the time of His arising. But that is not what it really says, as will be evident when we study the matter a little more closely, because the Evangelist previously said, in agreement with the other Evangelists, that this woman named Mary came to the tomb earlier, "very early in the morning" (v 16:2), with the other myrrhbearing women. And when they found the tomb empty they departed.

Therefore, the Lord had risen much earlier in the morning before she saw Him. In noting the hour, Mark did not simply say "morning," but "very early in the morning," that is to say, when the dim light across the horizon precedes the rising of the sun. And John refers to this when he says that, in the morning while "it was still dark," Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been removed from it. (Jn 20:1)

According to John, she did not come to the tomb at that time only, for she also left the tomb without seeing Him. So she runs to Peter and John and announces not that the Lord is risen, but that He has been taken from the tomb. Therefore, she did not yet know about the resurrection. So the Lord appeared to Mary [Magdalene] not merely in the morning, but in the full light of day.

Now, there is something mentioned by the Evangelists in a very shadowy way and I will reveal it to you. Indeed the good news of the Lord's resurrection, as is proper and fitting, was received from Him first by the Theotokos, prior to all other men. Also prior to all others, she saw Him and delighted in His divine speaking. And she not only saw Him with her own eyes and heard Him with her own ears, but she alone first touched His sacred feet with her own hands.

However, the Evangelists do not say these things openly, because they did not wish to present the testimony of His Mother so they would not be giving unbelievers an excuse for suspicion. But now, through the grace of Him who is risen, we can explain it to the faithful. And the meaning of this feast urgently requires that we clarify some things about the Myrrhbearers, for the reason given by Him Who said, "For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest." (Lk.8:17)

So, the Myrrhbearers are the women who, with His Mother, followed the Lord, and remained with her during the time of the saving passion, and sought to anoint the body of the Lord. When a great stone was placed upon the entrance to the tomb, according to the Evangelist Mark, sitting and watching from across the way were Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary." By saying "the other Mary," he was most certainly alluding to the Mother of God because she was called "the mother of James and Joses," who were sons of Joseph the Betrothed. But they were not the only women who were watching the burial of the Lord, for there were others also, as Luke records, "And the women also, who came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the tomb and the placing of the body in it...It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women." (Lk. 23:55; 24:10)

They returned, as it says, and bought perfumes and ointments, because they did not fully understand that He is the very Fragrance of Life to those who come unto Him in faith, just as the smell of death, on the other hand, envelops those who remain in unbelief unto the end. And the fragrance of His garments, in other words, His own body, is superior to all perfumes. And His name means "myrrh poured forth," [see note below] through which the whole universe has been filled with divine fragrance. But they prepared the perfumes and ointments on the one hand, in order to honor the deceased, and, on the other hand, as a relief from the stench of a corpse when it is decomposing.7

Although they prepared the ointments and perfumes, they rested on Saturday according to the commandment because they had not yet comprehended the true Sabbaths or correctly perceived that very day to be the super-blessed Sabbath that transfers their nature from the depths of Hades to the all-illuminated and divine and heavenly heights.

"Upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning," says Luke, "they came unto the tomb, bringing the perfumes which they had prepared." (24:1) And Matthew says, "At the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week," two women came. (28:1) And John says one woman, Mary Magdalene, "came early, when it was yet dark." (20:1) But Mark says three women came "very early in the morning of the first day of the week." (16:2)

It appears, of course, that the Evangelists disagree among them- selves regarding the hour as well as the number of women because, as I said, there were many Myrrhbearing women. And they came in groups to the tomb, not only once but two and three times, and not always the same ones, and all came during the morning but not exactly the same time.

Mary Magdalene, for example, returned again alone and stayed longer. So each Evangelist mentions one visit of a few and omits the others. I surmise and gather from all the Evangelists, therefore, that the Theotokos was the first person to come to the tomb of the Son of God, accompanied by Mary Magdalene. I conclude this mainly from the Evangelist Matthew, because he says, "...Mary Magdalene came and the other Mary" (28:1). who was most certainly the Mother of God, to see the tomb. "And behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone from the entrance, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him, the keepers trembled and became as dead." (v.2-8)

All the other women, therefore, came after the earthquake and after the guards fled, and found the tomb open and the stone moved away. But the Mother of God arrived at the moment the earthquake was happening, the stone was being moved and the tomb was opened. The guards, although very shaken, were still present, and after the quake they rose up seeking to flee. But the Mother of God rejoiced beholding this scene. It seems to me that the life-bearing tomb was opened first of all for her, because through her all things were opened to us, all that is above in heaven and below on earth; and for her the angel so shone that, despite the darkness of the hour, she was able to see by the fullness of the angel's light not only the empty tomb but also the grave clothes neatly put aside and testifying to the resurrection of Him Who had been entombed.

Obviously, the evangelizing angel was Gabriel himself, because the moment he saw her rushing to the tomb, he, who in the beginning had said to her, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God" (Lk.1:30), hastens now and descends to tell the Ever-virgin the same thing again and to announce the resurrection from the dead of Him Who without seed was born from her, and to lift the stone and display the empty tomb and the grave clothes in order to confirm the good news.

The angel replied to the women, "Fear not. You seek Jesus Who was crucified? He is risen; behold the place where the Lord lay." He says, "Although you behold the guards shaking with fear, you must not fear. I know you seek Jesus Who was crucified. He is risen, He is not here. Because He is not only uncontainable by Hades and death and the locks and bars and seals of the tomb, He is also the Lord of our immortal and heavenly angels, and He alone is the Lord of the universe. Behold," he says, "where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead."

And they departed "with fear and great joy." Again, I believe that Mary Magdalene and the other women who were with her up to this point still had fear, because they did not comprehend the significance of the angel's words. Nor were they able to fully perceive the light in order to see and understand correctly. But the Mother of God, on the other hand, who was altogether pure and filled with grace, received great joy because she fully understood the angel's words and was wholly taken into the light. Because of these things she was able to know the truth and to trust in the archangel, and because many years earlier he appeared to her and by his words proved himself trustworthy.

Besides, since the godly wise Virgin was present at all these occurrences, would she not have understood what was happening? That is to say, she saw the earthquake, she saw an angel, and a great one at that, descending from heaven like a bolt of lightening; she saw the guards becoming "dead;" and she saw the moving of the stone, the emptiness of the tomb, and the miracle of the grave clothes [see note below] that were not unwound but remained intact, held together by the myrrh and aloe, and looking like the hollow shape of the body. Moreover, she received the joyous sight and announcement of the angel. After this announcement and their own departure, it was as if Mary Magdalene had not heard the angel at all, for she attested only to the empty tomb and made no mention of the grave clothes and ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, as John says.8

Joseph of Arimathaea removed Christ's body from the Cross and "Nicodemus came with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about one- hundred pounds...They wound the body in othonia [soaked] with the spices..." (Jn.19:39-40) It is known that, after several hours, this mixture becomes fairly hard, as would the cloth strips, of course. In addition, the hardening mixture would cement the strips together and to the body. So by the third day, the winding cloths and the one hundred pounds of the mixture would form a rather solid shell that not only conformed to the body of the Lord, but was cemented to it as well.

When St Peter and St John entered the empty tomb they found the "othonia" completely intact, as St Gregory Palamas, St John Chrysostom, and other Fathers tell us. The cloth strips were not unwound or disturbed in any way. Indeed, the risen Saviour's glorified Body had passed through this cloth shell, just as, in His birth, He passed through the birth canal of His Mother, and as He passed out of the closed tomb before the stone was moved, and as He passed through the locked door where the disciples were hiding - in each instance - without disturbing the "seals." The face cloth or sudarium was also found neatly folded and put aside.9

The Mother of God, however, was returning again accompanied by other women, and behold, "Jesus met them, saying, Hail." (Mt.28:9) Do you see that the Mother of God saw Him even before Mary Magdalene did? "And they approached and grasped His feet and worshipped Him." (28:9) When the Theotokos, with Mary Magdalene, had heard the good news of the resurrection from the angel, she alone understood the meaning of the words.

Likewise, with the other women, when she met her Son and God, she was the first to see and recognize the Risen One, and fell down and grasped His feet and became His apostle to the Apostles. The fact that Mary Magdalene was not with the Mother of God when the Lord appeared and spoke to her is taught by John, because he says of her. "Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord from the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him." (20:2)

If she had seen Him and touched Him with her hands and heard Him speak, could she say that "they have taken Him away and we know not where?" However, after Peter and John visited the tomb and saw the grave clothes, and departed, "Mary stood before the tomb weeping." (20:11) Do you see that not only had she not yet seen Him, rather she had not even heard anything about Him. And when the angels appeared in the tomb and asked her, "Woman, why weepest thou" (20:13), she spoke again as if about a dead man. And as she turned and saw Jesus, even then she did not comprehend.

And when He asked her why she was weeping, she replies in the same way until He addresses her by her name and shows Himself to be alive. So then she too fell down wishing to kiss His feet but heard, "Touch Me not." We learn from this that when He previously appeared to His Mother and the women who were with her, He permitted her alone to touch His feet, even though Matthew presents this act as something all the women did, not wishing, as we said, to bring the Lord's Mother into question.

Since the Ever-virgin Mary was first to receive the message regarding the resurrection, many women then returned with her, and they saw the stone that was moved away and they heard the angels. With that sound and sight they left and went their separate ways. Some of them, Mark says, "fled from the tomb, for trembling and fear had seized them. Neither said they any- thing to any man for they were afraid." (16:8) Others followed the Mother of the Lord and they were able to see and hear the Master.

Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, went to Peter and John and returned with them to the tomb where she remained alone after they departed, and was blessed to see the Master. And she too is sent to the Apostles, and she comes to announce to all of them, as John says, "that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her." (20:18) Mark says that this took place in the morning, that is, in full daylight, certainly after dawn, but not that this is the time that the resurrection took place or His first appearance.

Now we have ascertained all the events with regard to the Myrrh- bearers, and we have reconciled the four Evangelists. But the disciples did not believe, even though on the very day of the resurrection they learned from the Myrrhbearers and Peter, and from Luke and Cleopas that the Lord was alive and had been seen by them. That is why they were disturbed by Him when He appeared later where they were gathered. But later, when He showed them many times in many ways that He was alive, they not only believed, but proclaimed it everywhere.

"Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Ps.18:4) and "the Lord [is] working with them and confirming the word with signs" (Mk.16:20), because the miracles were absolutely necessary until such time as the word would be preached throughout the world. For it is needful to have signs and great wonders in representation and confirmation of the truth of the preaching.

For signs are needed, though not great ones, for contemplation by those who have received the word, if they have believed, of course. And which signs? Those that come from works.

It is said, "Show me thy faith by thy works," and "Let him who has faith show his works by his manner of living." Can you believe that someone truly has a divine mind, a great and lofty mind -- one might even say heavenly, which is what goodness is -- if that person is given over to foul deeds and is attached to the earth and earthly things?

Let us present a manner of living that is appropriate to faith, that we may enter into the bridal chamber of incorruptible joy and live there eternally with the saints, in the abode of all who rejoice. Amen.

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Answers to Questions about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers

ANSWER 1

The Gospel reading for the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh Bearers is taken from St Mark. After the God-man Jesus Christ had given up His spirit on the cross St Mark reports: "Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus." (Mark 15:43)

He continues, "Pilate gave the body of Jesus to Joseph, And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre." (Mark 15:46)

St John gives other details in his gospel which show that Nicodemus also helped Joseph: "And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. {40} Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." (John 19:39-40)

St Luke gives us more insight into Joseph's character: "And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just: {51} (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. {52} This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. {53} And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid." (Luke 23:50-53)

St Matthew, who is perhaps the most laconic of the Evangelists concerning the events after the death of Jesus and His resurrection, still found it important to mention the exploits of Joseph, adding to our knowledge of him by calling him "rich": "When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: {58} He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. {59} And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, {60} And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed." (Mat 27:57-60)

Both Joseph and Nicodemus were disciples of Christ, although secretly, because of fear. Nicodemus had met Christ by night, and discoursed with him about being "born again" (John 3:1-21). Although Nicodemus did not understand about the Lord then, the divine words eventually found their place in his heart. He later was emboldened to contradict the gainsaying of the Jewish leaders who were plotting to find some way to put Christ to death, as John reports: "Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) {51} Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (John 7:50-51). St Luke's testimony also shows that Joseph was against the treachery of the Jews, and did not endorse the slaying of the God-man.

These two men, who before had been timid, and, despite their learning, ignorant concerning the true nature and purpose of Jesus, nevertheless were converted, and emboldened by the gentle wind of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. When the time came, they showed themselves to be true lovers of Christ, as they risked their position in society and even their very own lives by their burial of Christ.

These two men were motivated by their consciences, which had been touched with divine truth. Indeed, "perfect love casteth out fear" (John 4:18). Such love also causes a person to act. May God grant that our love will also cast out fear, and we will not stand by idly as intellectual Christians, but will be motivated by our love to work in a way that is pleasing to God.

The clean linen that was used to wrap the immaculate body of Christ, and the nature of the tomb also have important meaning to be gleaned, but we will save these things for another question.

ANSWER 2

The Sunday of the myrrh-bearers is the Third Sunday of Pascha (including the Sunday of Pascha itself as the first Sunday). It follows the Sunday of St. Thomas. St Thomas Sunday immediately follows the Sunday of Pascha because historically, Thomas saw the risen Christ for the first time eight days after the resurrection, and therefore, the commemoration is made in this time frame. It is true that the myrrh-bearers saw the risen Christ before Thomas, on the very day of the resurrection, but perhaps Thomas' confession of the dual nature of Christ, "My Lord and my God," also had a bearing on the order in which these two events are remembered by the church.

ANSWER 3

Holy tradition names seven myrrh-bearers:

Mary Magdalene
Mary, the wife of Cleophas
Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward
Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John
Susanna
Mary, the sister of Lazarus
Martha, the sister of Lazarus

ANSWER 4

Jesus was buried in a "new tomb", which had been hewn out of a rock, where no man had ever before been laid. The tomb was sealed with a great stone.

The tomb was new, so that this would be a proof of the resurrection. No one could credibly claim that some other person had risen from the dead.

In a mystical way, the tomb represents the human soul, where Christ must always abide. Blessed Theophylact admonishes us: "... Let us (also) take the body of Jesus, through Holy Communion, and place It in a tomb hewn out of a rock, that is, place It within a soul which always remembers God and does not forget Him. And let that soul be hewn from a rock, that is, from Christ Who is the Rock on which we are established" (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 15:42-47). The translators of this commentary into English also give this note: "The Greek word for 'tomb' is derived from the word 'mneme', which means 'memory'"

Christian! Have you hewn out a place in your soul for the God-man to abide? Have you labored hard to prepare a place, hewing out the hard rock of the passions and unbelief? Do not make the mistake of just believing in Christ, and not laboring to building a place for Him in your soul. The Christian life is filled with labor. Labor while there is the day, that is, while you have breath on this earth, and always keep Christ in your remembrance, in your soul.

ANSWER 5

The stone that sealed the sepulchre helped to validate the resurrection. It was set at the door of a previously empty tomb, and guarded by an elite cohort of soldiers. The stone was not moved until after Christ had resurrected, revealing an empty tomb, and the soldiers shaking with fear.

The stone was a large object, immovable by one man. Venerable Bede describes its removal: "This rolling back of the stone mystically suggests the unblocking of the Mysteries of Christ, which were concealed by the covering of the Law: for the Law was written on Stone" (Quoted from "the Sunday Sermons of the Great fathers", Vol. 2, Pg. 215)

ANSWER 6

Myrrh was used to preserve things from corruption and dry them out. It also had a sweet odor, as did the other ointments and spices that the women brought to anoint the body of Jesus.

We must understand the myrrh in a mystical way if we are to truly understand the Christian way of the life. The women came to the tomb of Christ in order to bring Him myrrh, that is good works, and a life that is pleasing to God and free of corruption. We must not come to Christ empty-handed.

"The Myrrh-bearers, fulfilling the Old Testament Law, the law of Moses, bought perfumes and went to anoint His body, the body of Christ. And we, fulfilling the Law of the New Testament, the Law of Christ, must also acquire spiritual perfumes - His commandments: humility, meekness, peace-loving - and we must anoint His body with spiritual oil (that is, love and mercy). And His body is the Church of Christ"
(Blessed Archbishop Andrei, "One thing Needful", pg. 67-8)

"You have heard, dearly beloved, that holy women who had followed the Lord came to the sepulcher with spices. They had loved Him when He was alive, and they showed Him their eager tenderheartedness even when He was dead. Their deed points to something that must be done in our holy Church. Thus as we hear of what they did, we must also think of our responsibility to imitate them. We, too, who believe in Him Who died, approach His sepulcher with spices if we are strengthened with the sweet smell of the virtues, and if we seek the Lord with a reputation for good works. And the women who came with spices saw angels, since those who advance toward God through their holy desires, accompanied by the sweet smell of the virtues, behold the citizens from on high." (St Gregory the Dialogist, "Forty Gospel Homilies", Homily 21, Pg. 158)

ANSWER 7

When the holy myrrh-bearers saw the angel, he was standing on the right side of the place where the body of Jesus had lain.

And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. (Mark 16:5)

It is not without purpose that the Evangelist mentions this detail
"right" side. St Gregory the Dialogist explains: "What is signified by the left side if not the present life? And what by the right side if not life everlasting? Therefore, because our Redeemer had now passed over beyond the infirmity of this present life, rightly does the angel who had come to announce His eternal life sit on the right side" (Quotation taken from the Sunday Sermons of the great Fathers, Vol. 2, it is also in Homily 21 of "Forty Gospel Homilies")

ANSWER 8

The angel gave exact instructions to the stupefied women:

"And he saith unto them, 'Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. {7} But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.'" (Mark 16:6-7)

The Evangelist goes on to tell us:

"And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid." (Mark 16:8)

The incredible reality of the resurrection was too much for the women to bear in such a short time. The Evangelists give many more examples which show that it was difficult even for those who loved the Lord to believe in His resurrection immediately. Blessed Theophylact explains: "Fear and amazement had taken hold of the women at the sight of the angel and at the awesome mystery of the Resurrection, and because of this 'neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid'. Either they were afraid of the Jews, or they were so in awe of what they had seen that their minds were confounded. For this reason 'neither said they any thing to any man', and they even forgot the command the angel had given them."(Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on St Mark 16:1-8)

ANSWER 9

When the angel instructed the women, he specifically told them to announce the resurrection to Peter:

"But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (Mark 16:7)

Simon Peter was still shaken by the remembrance of his threefold denial of Christ. The church considers this to be an important thing to meditate upon, and addresses Peter's anguish thusly:

O Lord, after Thy resurrection on the third day /
and the worship of the apostles, /
Peter cried out to Thee: /
"The women showed courage, but I was afraid. /
The thief uttered theology, but I denied Thee. /
And dost Thou now call upon me to be Thine apostle still? /
Or wilt Thou show me again to be a fisher of the deep? //
Yet do Thou accept me, who repent, O God, and save me!"
(Second Sessional hymn after the reading of the Psalter, Sunday Matins, Tone 5)

The angel singled him out in order to help him regain confidence that the Lord had accepted his repentance. The Lord Himself also singled out Peter when he restored him fully by means of His three questions after they had dined by the seashore. The Lord is always present and will always forgive, but we frail ones need to be reminded of this fact continually.

Blessed Theophylact explains: "He names Peter separately from the other disciples, as Peter was the foremost of the apostles. Also, because Peter had denied the Lord, the angel singles him out by name so that, when the women came and said that the Lord had commanded them to tell the disciples, Peter could not say, 'I denied the Lord, and therefore I am no longer His disciple. He has rejected me and abhors me' The angel added the words, 'and Peter' so that Peter would not be tempted to think that Jesus found him unworthy of mention, and unworthy to be ranked among the Lord's disciples, because of his denial." (Ibid.)

"After this, the angel told the women to proclaim these joyful tidings to the apostles 'and Peter'. Why 'and Peter'? Surely because Peter was feeling far more confused than the other disciples. His conscience must have been pricking him for his having three times denied the Lord, and for having finally fled from Him. The loyalty of the Apostle John, with whom Peter stood closest to the Lord, must have made Peter's conscience the more tender. John had not fled, but had remained beneath the Cross of his crucified Lord. In brief, Peter must have felt a traitor to his Lord, and must have been very uneasy in the apostles' company, especially that of the most holy Mother of God. Peter's name means "rock", but his faith was not rock-firm. His hesitancy and timidity made him scorned in his own eyes. He needed to be set back on his feet and to have his dignity as a man and as an apostle restored. The Lord, in His love for mankind, did this now, and this is why the angel made special mention of Peter by name."
(Blessed Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, "Homilies", Page 235)

ANSWER 10

Clean, white linen has always been a symbol of purity. Just as the two formerly secret disciples of the Lord wrapped the immaculate body of Christ in fine linen, we must wrap ourselves in good works and moral purity that is pleasing to God.

"Joseph wrapped the Lord's body in linen, a clean linen cloth (Matthew 27:59), and laid it in the tomb. If we want the Lord to rise from the dead in us, we must keep Him in our clean, pure body - for clean linen clothes denote a pure body. A body made impure by the passions and vices is not a place in which the Lord will rise from the dead and live."
(Blessed Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, "Homilies", Page 231)

More Answers to Questions about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers

ANSWER 1

The Church commemorates seven myrrh bearing women on the third Sunday of Pascha: Mary Magdalene, Mary, another Mary, Martha, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, as well as Righteous Joseph of Arimathia and Nicodemus.
ANSWER 2

Salome was the daughter of St. Joseph the betrothed, the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of the holy apostles James and John.

ANSWER 3

Mary was the wife of Cleophas, as the Holy Evangelist John reports: "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene". (John 19:25). He was a brother of St. Joseph the betrothed, and, along with St. Luke, met Jesus on the day of the resurrection, while on the way to Emmaus. This incredible story is recounted in the 5th matins gospel: Luke 24:12-35, (number 113 according to the Russian Gospel numbering). After long enlightening discourse with Him, they finally recognized him after he broke bread and blessed it.

ANSWER 4

Mary and Martha, whose brother was Lazarus.

ANSWER 5

Mary Magdalene was formerly possessed by seven devils (demons):

"... And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils ..." (Luke 8:2)

St. Mary Magdalene showed a red egg to a Roman Emperor as proof of the power of Christ, and to this day, it is traditional to have red eggs at Pascha.

ANSWER 6

The Righteous Joseph obtained the body of Jesus, and along with Nicodemus, anointed Him as best they could and buried him in a tomb that Joseph had intended for himself.

"When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. (Matthew 27:57-61)

"And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." (John 19:38-42)

ANSWER 7

The women wanted to anoint the body of Jesus, since they did not have enough time before the Passover began. They were going to the grave to anoint a dead man. They as yet did not understand that He would rise from the dead.

ANSWER 8

According to the witness of the majority of the Fathers, "Mary the mother of James" was none other than the Theotokos. Blessed Theofylact, in his commentary on St. Luke chapter 24 states this quite plainly: "Mary the mother of James is the Theotokos. They gave her this name as the apparent mother of James the son of Joseph, whom also they called James the Younger, that is, the brother of the Lord. For there was also James the Elder, one of the twelve, the son of Zebedee" (Blessed Theofylact, Commentary on St. Luke, Pg. 317). Holy tradition and the gospels place the Theotokos at the cross of Christ, as St. John states:

" Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." (John 19:25)

The Evangelist Mark mentions the mother of God by this other, more cryptic name when he describes those who were near the cross:

"There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem." (Mark 15:40-41)

The Holy church often refers to the Theotokos quite cryptically, from the old testament prophesies into the New Testament evangelical writings.

As an aside, we take note that Blessed Theofylact wrote his commentary, a compendium of all of the thought of the fathers from Pentecost onwards, in the 11th century. This was well before any impious innovators would suggest that the mother of God, the Theotokos, the ever virgin Mary, had children other than Jesus. The knowledge that the Holy Theotokos was and is a virgin was so fixed in the mind of the church that one could be so bold as to say that one cannot be Orthodox and believe otherwise. The innovations of the Protestants, in reaction against the corruption of the schismatic and later heretical Latins, would not come for many more years. They have much explaining to do if they are to prove that the Theotokos is not ever virgin, when so many prophesies, the testament of the Fathers, and the mind of the church stand as a united witness against their arrogant folly.

ANSWER 9

The women were mostly concerned about the great stone in front of the tomb, and seemed to not even be
considering that the tomb was guarded by an elite contingent of soldiers!

"And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" (Mark 16:3)

They saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, and were met by an angel when they entered it. it:

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted." (Mark 16:4-5)

The angel told them to tell the apostles, but especially singled out Peter:

"And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (Mark 16:6-7)

It had only been a few days since Peter had denied Christ three times. He was in a bewildered state, with his conscience pricking him terribly, and needed to be encouraged. A sessional hymn sung in matins expresses what surely must have been Peter's feelings:

"After Thy Resurrection on the third day / and the act of worship of the Apostles, / Peter called out unto Thee: / "The women ventured while I was afraid; / the thief confessed God while I denied Him. / Wilt Thou continue to call me a disciple? / Wilt Thou not make me again a fisher of the deep? // Rather accept me repenting, O God, and save me." " (Sessional Hymn after the second reading from the Psalter, Sunday matins, fifth tone)

Blessed Bishop Nicolai Velomirovitch has a wonderful commentary on this subject (Sermons, page 235)

ANSWER 10

Joanna was the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward.

"And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance". (Luke 8:2-3)

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1 (John 19:38-39) "And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. {39} And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight."
2 (Luke 23:50-54) "And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: {51} (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. {52} This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. {53} And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. {54} And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on."

3 Some of the Fathers say in regards to this passage: "And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid." (Mark 16:8), that the women's silence refers to the enemies of Christ, and strangers, and they did immediately go to the apostles with the news they had been commissioned to tell.

4 (John 20:3-8) "Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. {4} So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. {5} And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. {6} Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, {7} And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. {8} Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed."

5 (John 12:35-36) "Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. {36} While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light..."

6 The examples in the scriptures of this important truth are numerous. Cf. (as but one example) (Mat 21:28-31) "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. {29} He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. {30} And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. {31} Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."
7 The name "Christ" means "anointed." Here the saint has borrowed a phrase from the homily on Great Saturday by St John of Damascus, who says that Christ is indeed the anointed One, but He is also the anointing oil or myrrh itself: "the myrrh poured forth unto our being made anew." (George Gabriel)
8 note: In referring to the grave clothes of Christ, both St Luke and St John use a more specific term than "linen clothes," which is found in most English translations of the N.T. The original Greek texts (Lk.24:12; Jn.19:40, 20:6) use the word "othonia," pl. which are smaller cloths of linen, bandages, or strips in which dead bodies were swathed for burial. [as seen wrapping Lazarus in the icon of his resurrection] These are similar to the "swaddling clothes" or "spargana," pl. in which the newborn Chris was wrapped.(Lk.2:7,12) For burial, the body was swathed in "othonia" but the face was not, as we are told by St Luke and St John who give more details. Christ's face was covered with a "soudarion." This word appears in Greek but it is Latin (sudarium) for a hankerchief, sweat cloth, or napkin.

9 Note how the Scriptures expose the Shroud of Turin as a fraud. The Shroud is a 14 foot linen sheet. The Lord allegedly was placed in it for burial [contrary to the Jewish burial customs Note of the day] and, from head to toe, the direct contact left His complete image on the sheet.


NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 3

A NOTE ABOUT PRAYER DURING THE PENTECOSTARION PERIOD

Fasting is relaxed a little bit this month.

CATECHUMENS ADAM AND LAURA

ENGAGEMENT OF ADAM AND LAURA

AUSTIN LITURGY

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF THE PARALYTIC

GLEANINGS FROM THE FATHERS

LET US BECOME LIKE CHRIST...

WE MUST KNOW WHAT PASCHA IS

I HAVE NO MAN...

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE HEALING OF THE PARALYTIC

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF THE PARALYTIC

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR NEXT WEEK

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

News and Announcements

A Note About Prayer During the Pentecostarion Period


The prayer to the Holy Spirit, "O Heavenly King", said in almost every Orthodox prayer service, is NOT said from Paschal Matins (the first service of the Pentecostarion), which begins at midnight on the Sunday of Pascha, until the Vespers service for Pentecost. Anywhere this prayer occurs it is omitted, and until Ascension Thursday, is substituted with the Paschal troparion (Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life), sung three times. We are like the Apostles during this period, "waiting" for the Holy Spirit to come, and the absence of this prayer makes a strong statement of our profound need for the Holy Spirit.
Also, during this time, we do not normally do prostrations, unless our spiritual father instructs us to do them for some reason. In any case, no prostrations are done in the church until the day of Pentecost.

Fasting is relaxed a little bit this month.


On Wednesday and Friday we may always have wine and olive oil. On a few of the days, we can also have fish.

Catechumens Adam and Laura

Adam Newell and Laura Helms were received as catechumens this morning. They found about the Holy Orthodox Faith from Vasily, who is Adam's brother. Their baptism is planned for the afternoon preceding the vigil for the Dormition of the Holy Mother of God, Sunday, Aug 14/27. The following day, Monday, Aug 15/28, is the Dormition

Engagement of Adam and Laura

Adam and Laura also wish to be married, and their wedding is tentatively planed for the weekend following their baptism, Sep 3rd (ns). This is the first Sunday in September.

Austin Liturgy

There will be services for the Austin Mission of St John Maximovitch Friday and Saturday, June 3-4 ns.

Questions about the Sunday of the Paralytic

QUESTION 1
In the Scriptures, physical afflictions like paralysis, blindness, and leprosy often indicate or point to an even more serious problem. What is it?

QUESTION 2
According to the Scriptures, the witness of the Fathers, and the overall mind of the Church, what are at least two causes or reasons for physical infirmities?

QUESTION 3
What was the reaction of the Jews when Jesus healed the paralytic? Why?

QUESTION 4
Tell the story of the healing of the paralytic by the sheep's pool in your own words.

QUESTION 5
The healing took place during a feast. Speculate as to which one it may have been. In the services, the answer seems to have been given.

QUESTION 6
Why and how long did the paralytic wait for healing at the sheep's pool? Why is this pool so called? What made the water have healing properties?

QUESTION 7
What is pointed to by the healing in the water?

QUESTION 8
Who was the angel who "troubled the water"? Why do we know this?

QUESTION 9
What is significant about the paralytic's explanation for why he was not healed?

QUESTION 10
Compare and contrast the healing of the paralytic at the sheep's
pool with the paralytic healed at Peter's house.

Gleanings from the Fathers

Let us become like Christ...

"Let us become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let us become Gods because of Him, since He for us became man. He took upon Himself a low degree that He might give us higher one. He became poor, that through His poverty we might become rich (II Cor. Viii.9). He took upon Himself the form of a servant (Phil. ii.7) that we might be delivered from slavery (Rom. viii.21). He came down that we might rise up. He was tempted that we might learn to overcome. He was despised that we might be given honor. He died that He might save us from death. He ascended to heaven that we who lie prone in sin may be lifted up to Him.

We must know what Pascha Is

Now since you are celebrating the holy Pasch, you should know, brethren, what the Pasch is. Pasch means, the crossing-over; and so the Festival is called by this name. For it was on this day that the Children of Israel crossed over out of Egypt, and the Son of God crossed over from this world to His Father. What gain is it to celebrate the Pasch unless you imitate Him Whom you worship; that is, unless you cross over from Egypt, that is, from the darkness of evildoing to the light of virtue, and from the love of this world to the love of your heavenly home? (St Ambrose)

I have no man...

In Solomon's Porch there lay a multitude of sick. And at Mid-feast Christ found there a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight and thirty years. To him He called out with a voice of authority: Wouldst thou be made whole? And the infirm replied: Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool. And He saith unto him: Take up thy bed. Behold, thou art become whole, sin not again. By the intercessions of the Theotokos, O Lord, send down to us Thy great mercy.
Glory of the Aposticha of Vespers for Sunday of the Paralytic.

Thoughts about the Healing of the Paralytic

In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Today is the Sunday of the paralytic, in which we hear the story of a man who'd been ill for thirty-eight years and was finally healed. We have much to learn from this story. Now, the reason why it's said now, or part of the reason, is because, as the services said last night, at "mid-feast", Jesus visited this paralytic. It's almost mid-feast now, it is almost mid-Pentecost. Pentecost is a feast of 50 days, and we're in that period awaiting Pentecost. And the Jews celebrated Pentecost also; they didn't understand the same meaning as we do, it changed, but they had a 50-day feast. So Jesus came about towards the middle of that feast - mid-Pentecost - and saw this man by the pool of Siloam, with five porches there.

We can learn many things from this short story. Certainly we can learn something about patience, endurance, not complaining about what is our lot in life, what's wrong with our life, what's going on that we don't like. We complain constantly and incessantly, and our complaining is a stench that rises up to God. Because when you complain, you're showing a lack of faith, a lack of obedience, a lack of love - indeed, a lack of understanding of who the God-man Jesus Christ is. Who of all among us, if anyone, could complain and feel justified - our Lord is the only one. But of course He understood what his task was and He took it joyfully, and with obedience, in order to save us by living on the earth, showing us the way, teaching us and then backing up what He said with His actions and his resurrection from the dead after His crucifixion. Indeed, we can learn a lot about patience by seeing this man; he wasn't complaining, and he was there for 38 years.

We can also learn something about Who it is who can cure, and what it is that He really cures. Whether a man is halt, whether a man is withered, lame, blind, or whatever infirmity a man has, it is small compared to the infirmity of the soul. Jesus healed this man not just of his infirmity of being palsied, but of the infirmity of his soul. How do we know this? Because later on we see after he was healed and the man was in the temple - which is a good sign, he was thanking God - Jesus explained some things to Him. Now listen carefully! In our society we don't like to hear this, in our society this is somehow not allowed, people don't like to admit this, they almost think you're crazy or reactionary to make the connection with sin that our Savior did when He said, 'Thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee." Now the fathers understand - and if you just know English you can understand - that he's making a reference to his palsy, his being a paralytic was it some measure caused by his sins.

This is not always the case. In fact, one time Christ was asked, "was it because of the sins of his parents or himself that this man was born without eyes, blind?" Christ said neither one; if was that the glory of God might be made manifest. It's not always because of sins that a person suffers some affliction, but most of the time it is because of sins. Either because sin causes the affliction - smoking, drinking alcohol to abuse, drugs, promiscuity, there's a long litany of things, diseases, that are caused by our own stupidity, by our wanton abuses. You can see fractured families because people don't deal with their anger, or their lust, or their lust, or their impatience, or their selfishness; sin causes many problems such as that in a direct way. But in an indirect way sin causes many other afflictions, because we're so thickheaded we don't see God. We don't see God in the good things, and we take advantage of those good things and fall into depravity.

So God, in His wisdom, in His love, in His mercy, chastises us in order so that we might cleave unto Him. It's the same principle with parents and their children; sometimes you must punish a child to help turn him to the right way, sometimes you must let a child suffer grievously in order to let him turn to the right way. If someone has a child that, let's say, gets involved in extremely dangerous and illicit behaviors and goes to jail, sometimes it's best not to bail the child out. God does the same thing with us. Our sins cause our suffering.

This society doesn't like to say that - "oh, how can you say this?" It does happen, to all of us. So if you have any situation in your life you're not pleased with - whether it's a physical infirmity, whether it's a relationship, whether it's job, or neighborhood, or family or whatever it is, "Physician, heal thyself. " Look the in mirror; look in the mirror of the soul. What's wrong with you? What's causing it? As I said before, it's possible that such things could be caused not through your sins at all, but because of something else. But for the most part, our sins cause our sufferings. And yet we complain, and we complain and we complain. But we always complain about that person and that person, but never ourselves. That's the person you need to complain about. Complain, ask God to help you with your sins, with that which fills you with evil.

I was reading from a wonderful sermon by Bishop Nicholaj Velimirovich, and he said "A Christian should expect to suffer." How about that for politically incorrect speaking! He expects to suffer, and he is surprised and glad and rejoices when he does not suffer. He expects to suffer because of his sins, just as you, if you were subject to a king and had killed the king's deer, you expect that the king is going to have you executed. You're not going to complain about that, you're going to be sorry and ask for forgiveness to the king. And if the king gives you forgiveness - but you know, he'll say Don't kill any more of my deer, but I forgive you this time - then you'll rejoice. Now we can do this with an earthly king, but with our Heavenly Father we don't do this.

We seem to think we're owed so much. We breathe it in the very air, it's so polluted with Western ideas that pollute us. "We're owed something." We're not owed anything in terms of your lot in life. Much of your lot in life is affected by God's providence. All of it actually, but some of it caused by God, and some of it allowed by God depending on your own ingenuity and your own abilities. But it all goes away in a vapor, how you lived, what you've done in this world. What matters is how your soul has developed, and if you're made whole.

I see that there are three things in this story that really jump out at me. Now you know that the water represents baptism, and that the person who was put in the water was made whole. Notice how it is says "made whole"; not just their infirmity was healed, but they were made whole. . But only one person, at one time in the season.

Christianity is to make one whole. Baptism is for all men, not just for one man, at one time in the season. And the man said to Christ, when Christ said, "wilt thou be made whole?" he said, 'I have nobody to help me." And he was looking at the Man who would help him; he was looking at the God-man who would help him, and he didn't know who He was yet. Christ asks us this question continually. "Wilt thou be made whole?" And for the most part we answer him with a resounding "No." For the most part we answer Him that way. To some extent we've answered "yes"; we've come to the waters of baptism, we make an effort to fast, to come to the services - sometimes, unfortunately, a very poor effort to come to the services and I must mention that again. Don't lose your zeal; some of you are in very great danger of losing your zeal. But we make our small efforts, so yes indeed we say, to some extent, "Yes, I want to be made whole, O Lord!" But for the most part we say, "No, I don't want to give up what I'm doing; I don't want to give up the sweetness of sin, or the sweetness of complaining, or the sweetness of excuses." They're so sweet, aren't they? But they cover up bitter, bitter poison. So we must answer this question completely and totally, "Yes, I want to be make whole! I want to be cleansed of all my sins, and I don't blame Thee, the Lord, nor my friends, nor my family, nor anyone else for my sins and for my afflictions; they are mine and mine alone, and they are my fault. But Thou canst heal it; Thou art the man that can bring me into the water and can refresh me."

He is the one. We don't fully recognize that, either - oh, we believe it with our minds, with our lips, but if we really believed it we'd make much greater effort in living the Christian life.

And another things that jumps out at me: when Christ said "behold, thou art made whole; sin no more." Christianity is a constant process of becoming whole, but it involved two free wills - God's, who is perfectly free, and we, who should be free but have enslaved ourselves to the passions and lusts and corruptible things. But we were made to be free. It was our purpose. God made us to have perfect freedom. You know the Gospel of John where it says "he will go in and out and find pasture"? The sheep, being able to go in and out, go wherever they wish, perfect freedom, but freedom in godliness, freedom in purity, freedom in perfection. This is the purpose of our life - perfect freedom! So we have to answer Christ, when He asks us the question "wilt thou be made whole?", "Yes!" And any portion which answers "no" we must confess with bitter tears.

Stop making excuses for yourself. Don't make excuses for not being able to say your prayers, for not being able to come to church, for not being able to come to confession, for not doing this, for not doing that, for this reason, for that reason, for why you do this and why you do that. You know it's all a lie. I know it is a lie in my own life, so I strive to be honest concerning these things also. It's a lie. And every time you make an excuse, you are saying "NO." You're saying "I don't want to be made whole. I like laying in the gutter, I like laying in filth. I like wallowing in my sins."

Don't allow yourself to do this. That's why the church has an order. This order is not rules and regulations, it is for our benefit. That's why I must speak of it over and over, and especially during this season, because during this season is the most likely time for a person to fall away. Part of that is because God has given us such great grace on Pascha, and we hardly accepted it; we accepted a few things, we accepted some of the sweet meats, but we didn't accept and take into ourselves the resurrection. We couldn't bear it and so, because of unthankfulness, we're starting to fall away. I don't really know anybody who is honest who doesn't say that this happens to them during the Paschal season. It happens to me, but I struggle against it.

So I beseech you, my brothers and sisters, struggle against this; don't make excuses, don't let your life be in the way of eternal life. Don't let your temporal life impair you, don't make excuses, don't say NO. If you understood what Christ is saying, and says, when He says "wilt thou be made whole?", you'd be begging me to serve daily Liturgies. You'd be begging me, because you wouldn't want to go away from the temple, if you knew what wholeness really is. So taste God more and more, and as you taste more and more of God, you won't want to taste depravity.

But if you don't continue to taste of Him, and to "mount up like eagles" as it says in the Scriptures, to struggle, then it'll be a gradual slide. It might not be anything you notice, it might not be anything I notice - and I tell what, I keep my eyes peeled because, although I'm unworthy, I'm called to be a shepherd here, so I watch and I worry and I wait and I pray. But you know, in the long run, I'm not responsible for your salvation. To some degree I might have to answer if my own sins have caused you to falter, but you are all responsible for your own salvation. In the context of living the Christian life in community and in obedience, you are responsible.

Think a little about what it means to be whole. Which do you prefer - the inconstancy, the depravity, the weakness, the infirmity of this life, or wholeness, completeness, perfection and freedom? You and I are paralytics to some degree, sometimes to a great degree, and tragically this is usually of our own making. So when Christ asks you - and He's asking you today, He asks you every moment of your life - "Wilt thou be made whole?" You MUST struggle to say "YES" and then you MUST back up your promise with action, with effort, with desire. Then indeed, you will be made whole.

God help you!

Answers to Questions about the Sunday of the Paralytic

ANSWER 1
Physical afflictions are often an indicator or reminder of the more serious afflictions that beset all men - sins, and the passions which are the major cause of them. Our passions are like blindness or paralysis, because they impair our ability to live a righteous life, and cause us to miss the knowledge of God, as a blind man cannot see and a paralyzed man cannot go where he wants. This connection between the passions and sin and physical afflictions is well known in the mind of the church. This is not to say that sin always CAUSES physical afflictions. This is possible, however, in every case, afflictions are a reminder of our primary affliction and need for God.

Our Lord makes the connection between sin and afflictions repeatedly. In many cases, He forgave a man's sins before he healed him of his physical infirmity, to affect a complete healing and regeneration of the man. In other cases, he healed someone of their physical infirmity first, then later enlightened them concerning Himself (such as in the case of the man born without eyes), or reminded them about sin, which is their major affliction. One could say, and reclaim a highly charged word, that he is a "holistic" healer. The whole concept of healing and well being is profoundly different in the mind of the church than anywhere else. Physical infirmity is recognized as sometimes grievous, and sometimes as a great blessing, but healing from any infirmity is tied closely with the entire healing of soul and body that all Christians should seek.

As of old Thou didst raise up the paralytic, O Lord God, / by Thy God-like care and might, / raise up my soul which is palsied / by diverse sins and transgressions / and by unseemly deeds and acts, / that, saved I may also cry out: / O Compassionate Redeemer, O Christ God, // glory to Thy dominion and might. (Kontakion for the Sunday of the Paralytic, Tone 3)

Let us site some examples of how Christ ties physical healing to the entire spiritual healing of a man.

Healing from sins, then physical infirmity:

"And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. ... {6} But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. (Matthew 9:2,6, also recounted in Mark and Luke)

Healing from physical infirmity, then enlightenment:

"And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. {12} And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off. {14} And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. {15} And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, {16} And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. {17} And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? {18} There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. {19} And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." (Luke 17: 11,14-19)

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. ... {6} ... He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, {7} And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. ...{35} Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? {36} He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? {37} And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. {38} And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (John 9:1-38, parts)

"After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. {2} Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda ... {5} And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. {6} When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? ... {8} Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. {9} And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked... {14} Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee". (John 5:1-15, parts)

ANSWER 2
It is clear that physical infirmities are sometimes because of a man's sins. The story of the healing of the paralytic shows this truth, as Jesus warns the man about his sins when He finds him in the temple. Some sins directly cause infirmity, such as smoking or alcohol abuse or promiscuity. Sometimes sins cause physical infirmity in a less direct way, and the Fathers understand these afflictions to be a call to repentance for the erring man.

In some cases, however, there is no sin in a man's life, but the affliction is present for his edification and enlightenment, and sometimes to show the glory of God, whether the man is eventually healed, as was the case in the man born blind, or bears up under his infirmity with courage, patience and thanksgiving, as was the case in Lazarus, who lay at the gate of the rich man.

"A FEARFUL thing is sin, fearful, and the ruin of the soul, and the mischief oftentimes through its excess has overflowed and attacked men's bodies also. For since for the most part when the soul is diseased we feel no pain, but if the body receive though but a little hurt, we use every exertion to free it from its infirmity, because we are sensible of the infirmity, therefore God oftentimes punisheth the body for the transgressions of the soul, so that by means of the scourging of the inferior part, the better part also may receive some healing." (St John Chrysostom, Homily 38 on John)

"'What then,' saith one, 'do all diseases proceed from sin?' Not all, but most of them; and some proceed from different kinds of loose living, since gluttony, intemperance, and sloth, produce such like sufferings. (Ibid.)

ANSWER 3
The Jewish leaders were incensed when they saw Jesus heal on the Sabbath day, because of jealousy and hardness of heart.

"...And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day. (John 5:16)

"A word alone made strong the paralytic, / since it had been uttered by the universal Word, / Who had appeared upon the earth out of His love and compassion. / Wherefore, he departed hence and went forth bearing his own bed, / and the scribes, although they saw / this great deed which was brought to pass, / since they were held by evil and palsied in soul by their envy, // they endured not." (Sessional Hymn after the third ode of the Canon at matins for the Sunday of the Paralytic, sung in tone 3, special melody "Awed by the beauty")

ANSWER 4
During a particular feast of the Jews, Jesus went to Jerusalem, and encountered a paralytic who had been laying for 38 years by the "sheep's pool", which was a place where the sheep were washed before sacrifice. Once a year, an angel would stir up the water, and the one person who reached the water first was healed of his infirmity. The paralytic waited for healing, even though he had no one to help him get into the water. Jesus healed him, and told him to take up his bed and walk. He was healed on the Sabbath day, and the wicked Jewish leaders interrogated the man concerning this, and were greatly angered. Later, Jesus found the man in the temple, where undoubtedly he was thanking God, and warned him to take care to sin no more, lest a worse thing befall him.

There is much meaning in this small, simple story. We can see a pointer towards a great Christian mystery, and we see Jesus as the only "man" who we can have to heal us of our infirmities - physical and spiritual. We also see the outrageous inhumanity (or, shall we say, ungodliness, since man is made in God's own image) of man, when he is consumed by jealousy.
ANSWER 5
The Jews celebrated three main feasts, Passover (or Pascha), Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Evangelist does not mention which feast, but the proximity of the commemoration of healing of the paralytic to Mid-Pentecost in the Paschal season, causes one to surmise that it was at Mid-Pentecost that the paralytic was healed. The Jews celebrated Pentecost as a "feast of weeks" being 50 days in duration, and Mid-Pentecost was celebrated at the midpoint of this time. Christians have continued this practice. The services for this Sunday mention Mid-Pentecost:

"In Solomon's Porch there lay a multitude of sick. / And at Mid-feast Christ found there a paralytic / who had been bedridden for eight and thirty years. / To him He called out with a voice of authority: / wouldst thou be made whole? / And the infirm replied: / Sir, I have no man, / when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool. / And He saith unto him: / Take up thy bed. / Behold, thou art become whole, sin not again. / By the intercessions of the Theotokos, // O Lord, send down to us Thy great mercy." (Glory at the Aposticha, Vespers for the Sunday of the Paralytic, Tone 8)
ANSWER 6
The paralytic waited for thirty-eight years beside the sheep's pool for healing. This pool was used to wash the sheep destined for sacrifice. Every year, an angel would "trouble the water", and whoever entered the water first after this event was healed of whatever infirmity he had. Of course, the water had no special properties. It was the power of God that gave the water healing power, and the angel was merely the servant of His holy will.

"And 'an Angel came down and troubled the water,' and endued it with a healing power, that the Jews might learn that much more could the Lord of Angels heal the diseases of the soul. Yet as here it was not simply the nature of the water that healed, (for then this would have always taken place,) but water joined to the operations of the Angel; so in our case, it is not merely the water that worketh, but when it hath received the grace of the Spirit, then it putteth away all our sins." (St John Chrysostom, Homily 36 on John)

ANSWER 7
The healing of one man every year in the sheep's pool clearly points to the Christian mystery of baptism. As in all "types" which point to Christian realities and mysteries, this one is deficient. Only one man was healed at the sheep's pool, and he needed a helper so that he would reach the water first. All men can be healed by holy baptism, and Christ Himself will help everyone to have all that he needs. It is important to understand that baptism is not only the entrance into the church, and not only a cleansing, but it is the way in which a man is made whole and healed of all his infirmities. The healing of bodily infirmities in the sheep's pool only points to the total healing offered by God through baptism and the subsequent living of the Christian life.

"Of old an Angel came down to the sheep's pool and healed one man every year; but now Christ doth cleanse endless multitudes by divine baptism" (Canon of the paralytic, Ode 1, Troparion 4)

"What manner of cure is this? What mystery doth it signify to us? For these things are not written carelessly, or without a purpose, but as by a figure and type they show in outline things to come, in order that what was exceedingly strange might not by coming unexpectedly harm among the many the power of faith. What then is it that they show in outline? Baptism was about to be given, possessing much power, and the greatest of gifts, a Baptism purging all sins, and making men alive instead of dead. These things then are foreshown as in a picture by the pool, and by many other circumstances." (St John Chrysostom, Homilies on John, Homily 36, on John 4:54; 5:1)
ANSWER 8
The Holy Archangel Michael troubled the water at the Sheep's pool each year. The canon for the paralytic makes mention of Michael (who is known by the church as the "Supreme Commander" of the Heavenly Hosts) and asks his intercession several times. It is a shame that so many Orthodox and even priests eschew this holy service and deprive themselves of its mellifluent teaching. In so doing they deprive themselves of the heartfelt acknowledgement of the constant and powerful intercession of the Archangel Michael, the grandeur of the incarnation, pious and joyful meditation on the resurrection, and countless other "food for the soul". Truly, we are in the last days if Christians barely pray even on the weekend, and consider their "duty" to have been fulfilled by a scant hour on Sunday morning, and do not know even the simplest things.

"Together with the Hosts on High, O Archangel of God, make supplication for us who praise thee with faith, preserving and protecting us from falling into the passions of life" (Canon of the paralytic, Ode 3, Troparion 4)

"O leader of the Angels and guide for the erring, O Supreme Commander of the Lord, come into our midst at this hour, and bear the prayers of us all unto the only creator and Master. (Canon of the paralytic, Ode 4, Troparion 5)
ANSWER 9
The paralytic told the God-man that he had "no man" to help him. The priest, whose temple he was near, could not help him, nor would the Levite come near. Only the God-man could help him. The same exact meaning is also conveyed in the parable of the "Good Samaritan". The man who is attacked by robbers, who represents all of humanity, is left half dead on the side of the road. The priest and the Levite pass by, because they cannot help the man. Some take this "passing by" to be an indication of their lack of charity, but the fathers have mined a deeper and more powerful meaning from their passing. Neither the law nor the prophets, not any mortal man or teaching can save us. Only the God-man, Who is the Samaritan who helps the half-dead man, can effect our complete healing.

At the Sheep's Pool, a man lay in illness; / and on seeing Thee, O Lord, he cried; / I have no man, that, when the water is troubled, / he might put me therein. / But when I go, / another preceedeth me and receiveth the healing, / and I lie in illness. / And straightway, taking compassion on him, / the Savior saith unto him: / For thee I became man, / for thee I am clothed in flesh, / and sayest thou: I have no man? / take up thy bed and walk. / All things are possible to Thee, / all things are obedient to Thee, / all things are subject to thee. / Remember us all and have mercy on us, O Holy One, // since Thou art the Friend of man. (Vespers for the Sunday of the Paralytic, Glory from the Litya)
ANSWER 10
Here are several differences and similarities between the two stories:
* Sins mentioned at different times. The paralytic at Peter's house was healed of his sins first, and the one at the sheep's' pool was reminded concerning his sins after he was healed of his physical infirmity.
* Both had faith. The one on the pallet had to endure much to get in the presence of Jesus, the one at the pool waited a long time.
* The one on the pallet had the help of four men, the one at the pool had "no man" to help him.
* Both were healed by a word by Jesus.
* Both healings were on the Sabbath.
* The wicked unbelieving Pharisees were angry both times.
* Both stories are read during the Divine Liturgy on the Sunday of the Paralytic, which is the Fourth Sunday of Pascha.
* Look at these two stories yourself - don't just read the answer!

Something to think about for Next Week

Questions about the Samaritan Woman

QUESTION 1
Who was the Samaritan woman? Tell something of her life after meeting Jesus.

QUESTION 2
Who were the Samaritans? Describe their religion and relationship with the Jews.

QUESTION 3
Compare and contrast the reaction of the Samaritan woman and townspeople and the townspeople in the region of the Gadarenes when Jesus visited them.

QUESTION 4
What two revolutionary things did Jesus do by even talking to the Samaritan woman? The proud Pharisees would have judged Him on at least two accounts.

QUESTION 5
What time did Jesus meet the Samaritan woman at the well? Is there anything odd about this time? Why do you think she drew water at this time?

QUESTION 6
Water plays a big role in the story of the Samaritan woman. Cite at least five other places where water is used to describe or point to our salvation.

QUESTION 7
The Sunday of the Samaritan woman is more complicated liturgically because of the multiple commemorations this day. Name them. List how many stichera for each commemoration are sung at 'Lord I have cried', and explain why.

QUESTION 8
There was a significant prophesy concerning salvation which Jesus made when He spoke to the Samaritan woman. What was it? Approximate when it was understood by the entire church to be fulfilled (or being fulfilled).

QUESTION 9
The conversation between Christ and the Samaritan woman mystically is actually another conversation between what two parties?

QUESTION 10
Tell the story of the Samaritan woman. Don't look at the Bible when you do it.

"Redeeming the Time" is an almost weekly Journal of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas. Distribute this text if you wish, but only if attribution and all contact information are included. I would appreciate being contacted if any large-scale use of this text is desired. All unsigned or unattributed portions (c) 1999 Fr Seraphim Holland. All rights reserved

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NEWS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS 3

AUSTIN LITURGY

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

GLEANINGS FROM THE FATHERS

THE SAMARITAN WOMAN IS A WITNESS AGAINST THOSE WHO ARE NOT INTERESTED IN LEARNING ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

WHAT IS LIVING WATER?

HOW CAN I PUT THIS LIVING WATER TO GOOD USE?

THE WOMAN LEFT HER WATERPOT...

MEAT THAT A CHRISTIAN MUST KNOW OF ...

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

THE CONVERSATION OF CHRIST WITH THE SOUL

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SAMARITAN WOMAN

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT FOR NEXT WEEK

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SUNDAY OF THE BLIND MAN

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ASCENSION

News and Announcements

Austin Liturgy

There will be services for the Austin Mission of St John Maximovitch Friday and Saturday, June 3-4 ns. Fr Seraphim will be back on Saturday by 5 PM, as usual, for confessions and Vigil.

Questions about the Samaritan Woman

QUESTION 1
Who was the Samaritan woman? Tell something of her life after meeting Jesus.

QUESTION 2
"Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph."
(John 4:5)

Who were the Samaritans? Describe their religion and relationship with the Jews.

QUESTION 3
"There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." (John 4:7)

At what time of day did Jesus meet the Samaritan woman at the well? Is there anything odd about this time? Why do you think she drew water at that time?

QUESTION 4
What two revolutionary things did Jesus do by even talking to the Samaritan woman? The proud Pharisees would have judged Him on at least these two accounts.

QUESTION 5
Water plays a big role in the story of the Samaritan woman. Cite at least 5 other places where water is used to describe or point to our salvation.

In this case, Christ said to her: "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: {14} But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14)

What is the meaning of "water" in this context?

QUESTION 6
There was a significant prophecy concerning salvation that Jesus made when He spoke to the Samaritan woman. What was it? Approximate when it was understood by the entire church to be fulfilled (or is it being fulfilled?).

QUESTION 7
The conversation between Christ and the Samaritan woman is actually mystically another conversation between what two parties?

QUESTION 8
Tell the story of the Samaritan woman. Don't look at the Bible when you do it. Where is it found?

QUESTION 9
Compare and contrast the reaction of the Samaritan woman and townspeople and the townspeople in the region of the Gadarenes when Jesus visited them.

QUESTION 10
The Sunday of the Samaritan woman is more complicated liturgically because of the multiple commemorations this day. Name them. List how many stichera for each commemoration are sung at "Lord, I have cried", and explain why.

Gleanings from the Fathers

The Samaritan woman is a witness against those who are not interested in learning about the Christian faith

Let us now after this be ashamed, and blush. A woman who had had five husbands, and who was of Samaria, was so eager concerning doctrines, that neither the time of day, nor her having come for another purpose, nor anything else, led her away from inquiring on such matters but we not only do not inquire concerning doctrines, but towards them all our dispositions are careless and indifferent. Therefore everything is neglected. For which of you when in his house takes some Christian book in hand and goes over its contents, and searches the Scriptures? None can say that he does so, but with most we shall find draughts and dice, but books nowhere, except among a few. And even these few have the same dispositions as the many; for they tie up their books, and keep them always put away in cases, and all their care is for the fineness of the parchments, and the beauty of the letters, not for reading them. For they have not bought them to obtain advantage and benefit from them, but take pains about such matters to show their wealth and pride. Such is the excess of vainglory. I do not hear any one glory that he knows the contents, but that he hath a book written in letters of gold. And what gain, tell me, is this? The Scriptures were not given us for this only, that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts.
St. John Chrysostom, HOMILY 32, JOHN 4:13, 14

What is living water?
The grace of the Holy Spirit then He calls living water; i.e. life-giving, refreshing, stirring. For the grace of the Holy Spirit is ever stirring him who does good works, directing the risings of his heart. Blessed Theophylact

How can I put this living water to good use?

For the water which I give him is ever multiplying. The saints receive through grace the seed and principle of good; but they themselves make it grow by their own cultivation. Blessed Theophylact

The woman left her waterpot...

As the Apostles, on being called, left their nets, so does she leave her waterpot, to do the work of an Evangelist, by calling not one person, but a whole city: She went her way into the city, and said to the men, Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? St John Chrysostom

Meat that a Christian must know of ...


(regarding John 4:{31} In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. {32} But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of.)
Our Lord, knowing that the woman of Samaria was bringing the whole town out to Him, tells His disciples, I have meat that you know not of ... now not that I call the salvation of men food; or, know not that the Samaritans are about to believe and be saved.
Blessed Theophylact

Thoughts about the Samaritan Woman

The conversation of Christ with the soul

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!

Today we are privileged to witness a holy conversation. This conversation is not just between Christ and a woman. It is between Christ and the soul. This is what we are privileged to see: God opening a window for us to look through, to see how the soul reacts, how it grows, how it learns, and how He enlightens it. The fathers understand this to be the conversation of Christ with the soul. Now he continues the theme of enlightenment that permeates all the services between Pascha and Pentecost, because the resurrection enlightens us, the resurrection vivifies; the resurrection gives us all that we need to know God.

Now we're waiting upon the Holy Spirit, and as good and faithful disciples, we should be more zealous at this time of year than at any other time. Unfortunately, it is quite the opposite, as the years go by. This is the least zealous time for Christians, but it is the most important time. I guess that's why people are so haphazard at this time of year: because it's so important. In many ways, this time is even more important than Great Lent. This is the time for your blessing. God wants to enlighten you. God wants to show you so many things. This period of time is very holy. Unfortunately it is also one of the most ignored times of the year, an ignored holy time of the year.

Christ is showing us, the church is enlightening us, about how we are to live, what the resurrection means. We already know so much about what we should do and why we should do it, and the dos and the don'ts. What we need as human beings is the sure certainty that we can do things, that we can change and the enlightenment of the revelation of God in the human soul. This comes about because of the resurrection, these two things: certainty that we can change, and the revelation of God in the human heart. This is what Christianity is, and this is what we are being shown today. This is a holy thing, to be able to observe, to eavesdrop upon this conversation of Christ with the soul.

Now, as it is in many, many passages of scripture, most of them, we should put ourselves in this situation. We should consider ourselves as the Samaritan Woman at this point, and wonder how we would react. Where would we need to improve? This woman is great, but she was a sinner, there is no doubt about it: she had had five husbands, she was living in an illicit relationship with another man, and she believed in false religion. Samaritans were sort of semi-pagans; some of them worshipped other gods. They sort of worshipped God as the Jews understood, but then they mixed in some of the pagan things that happened that God had warned them against, and some of the Jews didn't take heed and so there was sort of a mixture, an amalgam of the true religion mixed together with the false. We can see that in other areas of the world, too, where animism mixes with Christianity, because people want to hedge their bets, I guess, and believe in all. So this woman was not a true believer, and she was not living a moral life.

But there was a greatness in her soul, because as God revealed Himself to her, slowly, there was awakened in her a great thirst, and a great and a brutal honesty. She was honest. Not just that she told the truth to Jesus, but that when she heard the truth, she accepted it. Not the truth that He was Messiah. That truth, as important as it is, is less important than the fact that she had to accept what Christ said about her. She had to accept that Christ had the right to tell her things and to look into her soul.

Many people proclaim Jesus as the Christ, and that truth doesn't save them. When we accept Jesus as the Christ in our hearts, when we accept that He has rights to tell us how to live, then we are on the road to salvation. Our life is full of many, many moments, when God tries to reach out and touch us. Many of these moments we have missed, sometimes because we have other things to do, other priorities. Sometimes because we are just bouncing around with that narcotic kind of wave of life, we don't listen and don't hear. God is only heard in that still, small voice, as Elias heard. He had to be still and quiet before he could hear. And so must we.

So this woman is in the whole bustle of life. She is going in the heat of the day, about noontime to get water, and Christ is by himself at the well. And He engages her in conversation, which was amazing to her. Not only is she a woman - it was not usual for a man to engage a strange woman in conversation - but she was a Samaritan. He was clearly a Jew. The Jews clearly hated Samaritans, and the feeling was mutual. Why in the world would this man be talking to her? But He awakened in her a thirst, and this thirst is what saved her soul. And He cleansed the unclean life that she was leading, and the unclean belief she had had all her life, and the arguments, and the hatred that she had toward the Jews, and everything else, because He touched her.

This conversation is long. It gets recounted in a few words, but it probably took quite some time, because there is certainly more that went on. This conversation is sort of our life in microcosm. And if you break off a conversation, you do not receive the full benefit of it. This is what I really want to tell you today.

This woman pursued the conversation. This woman pursued the conversation. Jesus said, "Give me to drink." She said, "Sir, why would you want to talk to me?" And then He brings in the idea of water, living water, and the woman begins to pursue after this idea, first carnally. She only understood it in terms of water that "I don't have to thirst for, I don't have to carry my water pot for anymore, water that doesn't go bad. This is a wonderful thing. How can this man help me? Maybe he is a magician, maybe he is a sorcerer." She pursued, and he pursued, and she became a flame. She started to understand things - only in a figure, only a little bit - but that's because the conversation continued. She desired this water greatly. And what is this water? The living water that Christ talks about. Not from a spring, nor from a river, it is the Holy Spirit that God wells up in a man. This is what Christ is promising to the woman, but she doesn't understand yet.

But this woman had another difficulty besides an incorrect understanding of God. She was living in sins, and they were dulling her intellect. Indeed she had quite a bright intellect, because eventually she became St. Photini, equal to the apostles, and a martyr. And you can see even in the end of this reading she became an apostle, for she evangelized the entire town. Now this is a woman that was probably of some notoriety in this town. Because even among the Samaritans, what she was doing was not acceptable. And yet she evangelized the whole town. She must have been aflame with the knowledge of Christ at this point, and she communicated it because she believed it. But she had to stop thinking carnally, and start thinking spiritually, and in order for that to happen Christ had to show her what was wrong with her life.

So he skillfully turns the conversation to her by asking an innocuous question, an innocent question. "Go, call thy husband." "I don't have a husband." "Thou hast spoken truly. Thou hadst had five husbands, and the one that thou hast now is not your husband." Now with the vast majority of people in the world, the conversation would have ended there. She would have come irate: how dare He? She would have stomped off, or become belligerent in the conversation, and what God wanted to give her wouldn't have been given. She would have cut if off right there. And I daresay all of us in this room should consider how we would react to the revelation of our sins in this manner.

Indeed I daresay, that we do react in this manner. We cut off our conversation with God. The conversation that is sweet, the conversation of Christ with the soul, but because we do not continue to ask questions, we do not continue to listen to the Master. We have our own priorities, our things we do. We don't say our prayers very often, we don't come to church, except haphazardly. We don't commune or confess very often. These are all parts of the conversation.

And you don't even know what you've missed. If this woman had become angry because of what Christ said, or maybe become disinterested in the very beginning, saying, "Oh, I don't really want to talk to a Jew today. I've had a hard time. I'm tired. I just want to get home, and I want to begin the rest of my household duties."; or, at any other point in the conversation, if she had cut it off, she would not have found out about the living water, and she wouldn't have known. It wouldn't have been a tragedy in her life right then. She would not have known. It would not have occurred to her that she had God before her, and she had sinned. She wouldn't have noticed it. She would have gone on with her life, and lived and died. And never known what she'd miss. What a tragedy!

This is what happens to us, too. God wants to shed grace upon us abundantly, yet we cut off the conversation. We don't even know what it is that He wants to give us. We are dull-witted because we do not sharpen our senses with the sword of the Holy Spirit that cuts to the marrow, tells us who we really are, and what we 're really like - not the vision that we give to other people, or even that we give to ourselves - but what we're really like. And then God reveals Who He really is. It has to be deep within the soul that He reveals this, and it is only in a protracted and intimate and intense conversation that this can occur. That's where the Holy Spirit reveals himself to a man, when we are intense, when we are fixed. One can easily imagine in this conversation that the woman was intense. She must have been gazing upon Christ with both eyes, listening to His every word, interpreting, asking questions, making many mistakes and many false assumptions, but every single thing He said drew her on. You can bet that she did not pay attention to the weather or that she was hot. She forgot her waterpot when she went away - what need did she have for the waterpot when He was promising living water?

This intense conversation is what we must have, and what we so seldom do, because we have our own priorities. Sometimes not even our own priorities. We just seem to be so unpracticed at the ways of piety. We say our prayers so infrequently, and such a small amount. We watch ten times more television than we pray. We read things that are either unholy or useless, rather than the Holy Scriptures. We say we don't have time for this, or the drive is too long, or da-da-da-da-da-da. And we don't even know what we missed.

I've learned something. I'll tell you a secret about myself that I'm continually finding out. Sometimes I get demoralized. It's a weakness of my character. And a day seems like just another day to me, and I've got duties to perform, and I'm going to perform them to the best of my ability. I'm going to try to pray. I'm going to try to do what I can, but the spark of zeal, of the expectation of visitation by God, is missing. And this often happens to me on Sunday, struggling with this demon of despondency. And then something happens during the course of that day - someone I meet, something someone says, a place where I am where God uses my poor self in my ministry as a priest to affect a human soul. It often happens at the end of the day. But I could have missed it, and indeed I don't know the days that I have missed, because I can't tell you about those days, when I wasn't open to what God wanted me to do. I can't tell you about the missed opportunities, except to believe that they happened. Many times this has happened to me, countless times, hundreds of times it has happened. It must have happened also hundreds of times - God forgive us - God forgive me and God forgive you, because I'm positive it's happening to you today, where you've missed the opportunities for God's grace.

You must continue the intensity of the conversation. You must continue gazing at Christ and asking Him. He told you to ask Him for everything. But implicit in that command is that you must accept His answers, and ask Him for more answers. This woman is great among the saints because she was intense and was willing to accept what God would tell her. We don't do that. We don't like to be told much about ourselves. I've encountered this countless times myself also. People do not like to know what's really wrong with them. They get very, very prickly when things are too exposed. And unfortunately I am sometimes the agent of the exposing, so I can see it first hand. I see myself as in a mirror when I see this occur, because I don't like to be exposed either. But this conversation that Christ had with the Samaritan woman took time. Gradually her sins were exposed to her. When it was time for Christ to show her that He absolutely knew all about her, she was ready to accept it. But that was only because of the effort that she had put into the conversation up to that point. We must put effort into this conversation.

This is the only thing that is important in our lives - the dialogue of Christ with our soul. Nothing else matters. It is why we were born. It is why God has given us life, so that we could have intimate knowledge of Him. Intimate knowledge happens in a quiet, intense conversation of God with the soul, through everything we do in our life. When you make bad decisions, when you are lazy, when you don't come to church, when you don't say your prayers, when you decide to eat some nibble of food that is not fasting, all these things are breaking the conversation. And you know how it is when you are distracted in a conversation. Let's say you are having a conversation with someone and the radio or the television is on in the background, you get distracted. "Oh, yes, what did you say?" You don't make much headway in it. There's not much revelation in it. This is the way we are. It is lamentable, and sad, but it is the way we are.

What a glorious thing it is for Christ to speak with the soul. What a glorious thing it is to be promised living water, never to be thirsty again. Never to be sad. Never to be hungry. Not to have anything wrong with us. No wounds. No incompleteness. No imperfections. No longer pain and longing. This is what He promises us. It is only realizable, though, if we are participating with Him, as He reveals Himself and reveals to us ourselves as we live our life. It is only possible if we continually participate. I harp again and again about consistency. Saying your prayers consistently, keeping the fast consistently, coming to the services consistently. Not haphazardly. Not just most Sundays, not just some Saturdays. All of them. The reason I say this is because deeply imbedded in the mind of the church is the reality of this conversation between Jesus Christ and St. Photini. It is the conversation of God with the soul and it happens every day, and every single word, every nuance is critical. None can be missed.

I cannot tell you how many of these words or nuances you can miss and still be saved. It is unknown, but not many. This is why I speak about all these things in terms of the externals of our life. The externals are critical so that God can speak. Otherwise we are too distracted. So I tell you boldly, when you don't want to say your prayers, or when you don't feel like coming to church, or when you're bored in church and leave early or when you have some other thing to do, it's not only boredom. It's not that your feet hurt or your back hurts. It's not that you have some other duty that overrides what you should be doing in church, or prayer at home, or keeping the fast. It's not those reasons that you might think it is. It's purely and simply because if this conversation is broken you will make no progress. So Satan does what he can to break the conversation. And we are too willing to allow the distractions to occur in our life.

God wants to give us so much. I think this conversation between this Samaritan woman and Christ is a great promise. He accepted her where she was, with all of her sins, and all of her false opinions, and she was willing to continue to listen, and He brought her to where she needed to be. It is the same with all of us.

Now she said she had five husbands. Five dead husbands. But she had another who was not her husband. We indeed also have husbands. Unfortunately they are not dead. We have distractions, and we have false priorities and other things that cause us to commit adultery against our true spouse, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let those husbands die. And let us be faithful, true to the bridegroom. May God help you to continue the conversation, to the end of your life, not omitting one detail. God will enlighten you if you continue this conversation. Absolutely certain, there is great news today. Continue with the conversation. God will enlighten you. Glorious news this is. Amen.

Answers to Questions about the Samaritan Woman

ANSWER 1
The original name of the Samaritan woman is not known, but the church knows her as Photini (Svetlana in Russian), "Equal to the Apostles". She was baptized after the resurrection, and in a continuation of her zealous apostolic ministry begun on the day she met the Lord, preached in many areas, including Carthage and Smyrna in Asia Minor, where she was martyred. She had 5 sisters and two sons, all of whom became martyrs. She is commemorated February 28th, and, of course, on the fifth Sunday of Pascha.

"The holy martyr Photini (Svetlana) ... was that Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to speak with the Lord Christ Himself at Jacob's Well in Sychar (John. 4). Coming to faith in the Lord, she then came to belief in His Gospel, together with her two sons, Victor and Josiah, and five sisters who were called Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriake. They went to Carthage in Africa. But they were arrested and taken to Rome in the time of the Emperor Nero, and thrown into prison. By the providence of God, Domnina, Nero's daughter, came into contact with St. Photina and was brought by her to the Christian faith. After imprisonment, they all suffered for Christ. Photina, who first encountered the light of truth by a well, was thrown into a well, where she died and entered into the immortal Kingdom of Christ."
(Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic, The Prologue from Ochrid / Ohridski Prolog)

By the well of Jacob, O holy one, /
thou didst find the Water /
of eternal and blessed life; /
and having partaken /
thereof, O wise Photina, /
thou wentest forth proclaiming Christ, the Anointed One.
(Megalynarion for St. Photina, according to the Byzantine usage. Call us up at 972 529-2754 and ask for Genevieve or Fr Seraphim if you want to hear the melody!)

ANSWER 2
The simplest description of the Samaritans is that they were people who followed some of the divinely revealed Jewish religion, and added to it various kinds of false teachings. They were considered to be an unclean people by the Jews, partly because of the history between the Jews and Samaritans, and partly because the Samaritans were not pure in the faith.

"Who were these Samaritans? After Jeroboam divided the kingdom, Samaria became the capital of the Kingdom of Israel which consisted of ten tribes of Israel. Through succeeding generations, the people became increasingly idolatrous and corrupt. In 722 BC God allowed Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, to capture them and take the people away into captivity. He repopulated the land with Assyrians. Because these new inhabitants were ravaged by wild beasts, they assumed that they had offended the god of the land. So a captive priest was sent to teach 'how they should fear the Lord.' Thus, along with their own gods, they also feared God and were instructed from the Pentateuch.

"Generations later, as Judah returned from captivity and began to rebuild the temple, the Samaritans wanted to help. Their help was refused. That further inflamed long felt animosities. A man named Manasseh, of priestly lineage in Judah, married a Samaritan and was expelled by Nehemiah about 432 BC. He went to Samaria and became high priest of a temple built on Mt. Gerizim and there the Samaritans offered sacrifices of the Law. In their nationalistic zeal they claimed that both their temple and their copy of the Law were greater than those at Jerusalem. On the other hand, Jewish animosity was so entrenched that a traveler went around Samaria on his journey from Judaea to Galilee. "

(http://www.freedomsring.org/fta/chap12.html - I DO NOT recommend the theology there, but the description is helpful)

ANSWER 3
Jesus met the Samaritan woman, St. Photina, at the well at 12:00 noon, the sixth hour, as the scriptures attest: "Jesus ... being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour." (John 4:6)

The woman was getting water at this time because of her shame. She "wore a scarlet letter on her forehead", and in order to avoid the gossip and cruelty of others, came to the well in the heat of the day, rather in the morning, when others would get their water.

ANSWER 4
Jews normally have no dealings with Samaritans, as the woman herself attested. It was also unusual for a man to speak with any woman in public at that time.

ANSWER 5
Water is an important part of the story in:
The crossing of the Red Sea (of course)
The teaching of Christ to Nicodemus, when he came to Him by night
The healing of the paralytic at the sheep's pool
The Great Flood
The changing of water into wine.

When Jesus spoke of giving water to the woman at the well, He was telling her about the gift of the Holy Spirit.

"SCRIPTURE calls the grace of the Spirit sometimes 'Fire,' sometimes 'Water,' showing that these names are not descriptive of its essence, but of its operation; for the Spirit, being Invisible and Simple, cannot be made up of different substances. Now the one John declares, speaking thus, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire" (Matthew 3:11): the other, Christ, "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7:38) "But this," saith John, "spake He of the Spirit, which they should receive." So also conversing with the woman, He calleth the Spirit water; for, "Whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him, shall never thirst.""
St John Chrysostom, HOMILY 32, JOHN 4:13,14

ANSWER 6
"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. {22} Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. {23} But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. {24} God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:21-24)

These words constitute, in part, a prophecy. All peoples would come to know Christ, the One Who spoke it, including the as-yet- unevangelized Gentiles. The church understood fully concerning the salvation of the Gentiles after the Holy Apostles Peter's vision, and the ministry of St. Paul.

"Think not, He saith, that this is a prophecy of such a kind as shall be accomplished after a long time, the fulfillment is already at hand and at your very doors, "when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." In saying "true," He excludeth Jews as well as Samaritans; for although the Jews be better than the Samaritans, yet are they far inferior to those that shall come, as inferior as is the type to the reality. But He speaketh of the Church, that she is the "true" worship, and such as is meet for God."
St John Chrysostom, HOMILY 32, JOHN 4:13, 14

ANSWER 7
The conversation between Christ and the Samaritan woman is mystically that of Christ and the soul. We know this because the Fathers have written about this subject, and the mind of the church has believed it. It is very important to read the scriptures according to the mind of the church, in the context of the services especially, and in the writings of the fathers, so that important mystical meanings may be understood, and to insure that we do not make up our own false interpretations.

ANSWER 8
The story of the Samaritan woman, St. Photina, is easy to remember, not only because it is so powerful and beautiful, but also because it is elegantly recounted many times in the holy services. The services teach and reinforce divine truths like no other occupation.

The story is found only in St John's gospel. Jesus and His disciples were passing through Samaria, when He arrived at Jacob's well, having sent His disciples into town to get food. It was about the sixth hour (noon). He met there a woman who was there to draw water, at this peculiar hour, when the sun is so intense. He asked her for water, and this began a subtle and nuanced conversation between them. This conversation is a type of the conversation between God and the soul, or the conversion of the soul from earthly, carnal and sinful ways of thinking to thinking of heavenly things. At length, He asked her to call her husband, to which the sinful woman replied, "I have no husband." Then Jesus showed His omniscience by uncovering her sinful way of life, and her 5 previous husbands, and finished the opening of this woman's heart to truth. Just after the apostles arrived from town and marveled that He was speaking so freely with this newly converted Samaritan woman, she left her waterpot, (which showed her zeal and acceptance of Christ's words, and the leaving off of earthly things which all who imbibe DEEPLY of the living water will naturally do), and ran to tell her townspeople of the Christ. While she was gone, Christ instructed His disciples about doing the will of God. When the townspeople arrived, upon investigating, they begged Him to stay a while and teach them, which He did.

"The Well-spring of the principle of life, Jesus, our Savior, came to the well of the Patriarch Jacob, and sought water from a Samaritan woman that He might drink. And when she addressed Him and said that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, the wise Creator diverted her by the sweetness of His words rather to seek of Him the everlasting water, which, when she received it, she proclaimed to all, saying: Come and see the Knower of things hidden, God Who is come in the flesh to save man.".
Doxasticon (Glory of the Stichera) of Vespers of Friday of the Samaritan Woman

ANSWER 9
The Samaritan woman reacted with great humility when her sinful life was uncovered, and with her spiritual eyes saw the truth behind Jesus' words, that is, that He is the Messiah. She cared nothing for carnal things once she was convinced that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Because she had a good heart, full of love for her people, she hastened to do the work of an apostle, and preached to her town the good news. The Samaritans received the news with joy and begged Jesus to stay a while. Their hearts were open to the truth, and they were willing to be taught.

The black-hearted people of the Gadarenes also felt the power of the God-man when one from among their midst was healed of his demons, but reacted with fear and disgust. They wanted Jesus to leave their coasts, perhaps partially because they did not want their sinful commerce to be discovered by the Jewish authorities (they traded in pigs, an unclean animal according to Jewish law), and certainly because their conscience was pricked, and they did not want to repent and learn. The reaction of the Gadarene townspeople ranks as one of the greatest tragedies chronicled in all of history. God walked among them, and healed one of their number. Surely they could have believed that the meek God-man would heal them of their infirmities too, just as the Samaritan woman, one with a "scarlet letter" on her forehead, believed. They did not only hear about the power of God, but they saw it with their own eyes. Instead of becoming evangelists for the good news, they became like those who said later "his blood be on us and our children", and like dogs, returned to their own vomit.

ANSWER 10
The 3 commemorations on the Sunday of the Samaritan woman are:
1. The Resurrection (always commemorated on Sunday, except on Great Feasts of the Lord).
2. Mid Pentecost (which was celebrated the preceding Wednesday. The church is still in the "after" feast period).
3. The Samaritan woman.

When there are two other commemorations on a Sunday, it is almost always the case that there are four stichera sung from the Sunday Octoechos for the resurrection in the tone of the week, and three each for the other two people or events commemorated at "Lord, I have cried". There are always 10 stichera at "Lord, I have cried" for Vespers on Saturday night

Something to think about for Next Week

Questions about the Sunday of the Blind Man

QUESTION 1
Tell the story of the healing of the man born blind from birth. Where does this story appear? When is it read in church?

QUESTION 2
Why was the man born blind? The scripture mentions two possibilities.

QUESTION 3
What is the tradition concerning the "eyes" of the man born blind?

QUESTION 4
Many of Christ's healings recounted in the Scriptures consist of TWO healings, sometimes in a different order. What are these, in general terms? Describe these two healings of the blind man, in the order they occurred. Give at least one other example of a "double healing".

QUESTION 5
Why were the Jews upset about the healing of the blind man? What was the stated reason, and what were the real reasons?

QUESTION 6
The complete healing of the blind man is a marvelous example of synergy, the cooperation of man with God's will. One may justly conjecture that his complete healing would not have been affected if not for his own praiseworthy actions. Explain. Hint - describe and comment on the actions of the blind man from the time he was told to wash in the pool of Siloam until his second encounter with Christ. You should be able to describe at least two important actions of his, which were absolutely necessary to affect his complete healing.

QUESTION 7
The healing of the blind man shows in a striking way that God gradually illumines a soul. This event was recorded for our benefit, and, together with many other events and recountings, helps us to see the diverse manner in which Christ heals and illumines a soul, and also serves as an instruction to us, who are also being gradually illumined, more or less according to our reaction to God's grace.

The illumination of the soul has been a constant theme since Pascha. Describe at lease three other examples of this most important action of the grace of God, which the church has recently contemplated. What may these recountings teach you?

QUESTION 8
The trip of the blind man to the pool of Siloam cannot be overlooked, as it is very instructive to us. For what is this trip a model? Describe the trip, and don't be laconic! We must understand the difficulty of this trip, if we are to benefit by it.

QUESTION 9
Jesus said to His disciples, after they asked him about the blind man: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." (John 9:4)

What is the meaning?

QUESTION 10
Describe another washing in the Old Testament (this one, being 7 washings) that also effected a healing.

Questions about the Ascension

QUESTION 1
What significance does the event of the Ascension of Jesus Christ have for the Christian? The Orthodox should understand why they celebrate a feast, and its inner meaning.

QUESTION 2
There is an important account of the ascension that is not in the gospels. Where is it? The story involves angels. How? Describe how a cloud was involved.

QUESTION 3
In the gospel reading for Liturgy on the Ascension, two gifts are mentioned by Christ. One is given and one is promised. What are they? Comment on their importance and meaning for a Christian.

QUESTION 4
From what mountain did Christ ascend? How will this mountain be involved in another, cataclysmic event?

QUESTION 5
There is a significant occurrence in the Ascension story that can only be understood in the context of the church, and the absolute need for apostolic succession of bishops and priests. This occurrence, properly understood, should cause everyone who trusts his own interpretation of the Bible outside of the context of a visible, authoritative and dogmatic church to flee from his false, individual understanding and seek out the church. What is this occurrence? Comment on it, and try to specify other scriptures that point out or support this critical Christian teaching.

QUESTION 6
What commemoration is the day before Ascension? Explain.

QUESTION 7
How long is the feast of the Ascension?

QUESTION 8
What, in general terms, is the Typicon for the services of the Ascension? List all the books needed to serve the services completely. Where may one obtain the main texts for the Ascension in English?

QUESTION 9
Detail the differences between the services of the Ascension and those of a "regular" Sunday.

QUESTION 10
Detail the differences between the services of the Ascension and those of a "regular" weekday.

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