April 8, 2015

The Sinful Woman: A Sheep Without a Shepherd (Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria)

By Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria

It is Holy and Great Wednesday and Saint Amphilochios, Bishop of Iconium in Cappadocia, guides us once again with his famous discourse on the event of the Lord's anointing with myrrh by the harlot woman for whom the divine Fathers established "to make remembrance of".

A) What was this woman?

A sheep without a shepherd.

"This is why Christ came into the world...and became man without ceasing to be God, so that sailing along the sea, He could remove from the depths of sin those suffering in the sea of life."

And just as He leaves the ninety and nine and seeks the one who has gone astray, in a similar way He seeks her soul so as not to become food for the devil. This is how He snatched Zaccheus from the mouth of the wolf and united him with the pen. In the same exact way, at the house of Simon the leper, He eats with the Pharisees without driving away the tax-collectors, "and the prostitutes He accepts, and He has a conversation with the Samaritan woman, and He receives the words of the Canaanite, and He grants the edge of His garment to the woman with the issue of blood. This is because He is the Physician of all and He touches their sufferings for the benefit of all, the evil and the good, the ungracious and ungrateful."

B) Sheep without a shepherd

This sheep without a shepherd, according to the God-bearing Father, "turned her intellect towards the faith. She entered the house where Christ was sitting at supper and her former shamelessness He turns to boldness. She doesn't speak, because He knows everything. He knows she sinned and became a worker of many evils. This is why the only thing she does is lean near His feet and moistens them with the tears of her repentance showing her heartache, conquering the multitude of her sins, expelling the indecent thoughts, the guilty memories and her profane actions." And she did not stop there, "but she anoints His feet with myrrh which will lean on the wood of the Cross."

She imitated the Magi, who offered Him gold, frankincense and myrrh.

"She touched His uncontaminated feet and shared with John the body of Christ. Because John fell onto the chest of Christ (Jn. 13:23), expecting to get from there divine teachings, and the woman anointed the feet of Christ with myrrh which walked for our sake."

"This is why Christ forgives all her previous deeds, praises her repentance, justifies her tears and crowns her intention."

This is why His words are characteristic: "Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her" (Matt. 26:13).

C) Sheep without a shepherd

This woman becomes our teacher in the hard lesson of repentance.

How many things she has to teach us about the tyrant called sin, which like an incurable disease plagues humanity?

It dazzles us, it captivates us, it darkens our minds, paralyzes our will, makes our heart cumbersome.

Our feet move towards the crossroads of iniquity, our hands sign unjust actions.

Our lips offer most bitter cups of ingratitude.

It's as if we are prisoners, as if we don't know what has value compared with what doesn't have any. We want to live our lives only for ourselves and we blame everyone else in the name of justice. We condemn avarice, when it is we who are the first to not be cured of this terrible disease.

And the most shocking: we have erased God from our lives. We have no vision for the Kingdom of Heaven. We have forgotten the "and He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead." This is why with all that is happening around us and in our lives we are like the fallen disciple.

For this wretched person the sacred hymnographer, again in the Matins of Holy and Great Wednesday, calls him a "monger". "The terrible Judas is a monger of God-loving grace."

Perhaps we also are mongering the Grace of God?

This is a real tragedy!

Who will help us to banish this terrible sin from us? Who of us will dare to renounce it? Who will have the humility of this woman? These are some of the questions. This is why the only thing we can do is, together with the tears that continuously stream from our eyes, to say every day to God: "Lover of mankind and Benefactor, from the filth of my actions deliver me" (Oikos, Holy Wednesday).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.